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Last Updated: Friday, 23 February 2007, 09:52 GMT
Jon Wilkin column
Jon Wilkin

By Jon Wilkin
St Helens back row

I suppose people reading this will be expecting a list of excuses and mitigating circumstances for our defeat at Wakefield last Sunday.

I could list reasons but in all honesty we produced a very poor second-half performance and were punished by a very potent offensive display from the Wildcats.

It has amused me, though, how quickly we have been written off and how people can paint the picture that we are a club in crisis.

Apart from orders to wear black to training, a compulsory diet of bread and water and a strict laughter ban, not much has changed internally!

It has been frustrating for me personally to watch the lads struggling

The truth is we thoroughly review the performance of the team and the individuals after victory or defeat.

And if we lose, our attitude and mood in training does not change.

We always maintain high standards, but we still enjoy each other's company - and laughter and fun are a big part of what we do.

It has been frustrating for me personally to watch the lads struggling during my two-game suspension, and I feel a slight amount of guilt about not being able to help them out in any way.

It's always hard watching something you have invested so much emotion in and not being able to influence the result.

But it's not only me who has been frustrated. We have had an unlucky run of injuries and it seems a lot of players have been fidgeting in the stands.

The stand is a really uncomfortable place for a rugby league player to be.

It is like waiting for a woman to try on clothes in a shop.

The walls start closing in and you experience cold sweats and an uncontrollable urge to run away!

At least none of the directors asked me if they 'looked nice' or if the suit they were wearing made them 'look big'.

A rugby player's home is on the pitch on match day, in the mud and cold with the rest of the team.

For some reason I have started reminiscing about how the game used to be.

Kelvin Coslett
How we were: Kelvin Coslett lifts the Challenge Cup for Saints in 1972

It must be the cold and wet conditions reminding me of days when winter rugby was all the rage.

An era when the players were really tough blokes, and things such as extra grip on a ball, strapping tape, sports supplements and physiotherapy were all distant dreams of what life could be like.

And as for television replays allowing the officials to make the right decisions, pure luxury!

Maybe we get spoilt as modern players.

We often use conditions as an excuse, but great players of old tossed the pigskin around in the mud and rain, wearing heavy boots and getting little support from referees.

The stiff arm used to be a legitimate technique to fell your opponent and the occasional off-the-ball right hook to the head was deemed worthy of just a penalty to the opposition.

The modern game has changed in some ways, and for the better, but in other ways I like the old-fashioned, less complicated version.

I could sit and talk with the game's characters for hours.

Kel Coslett, a true legend at Saints, is currently football manager at the club, which means he is the link between the board and the players.

Kel used to work for a large brewery in St Helens while he played, delivering barrels to hundreds of pubs and clubs before going training in the night.

It amazes me how he and others managed it, but I suppose a lot of the weight training we do now was done via manual labour achieved in the work place.

It makes me laugh whenever I ask Kel for directions.

We are not only representing the club and ourselves but also the league and our country

It generally goes like this: "You go left at the Dog and Duck, straight past the Golden Lion Bear, right at The Swan, then take your second left after The Griffin Inn, cracking Sunday lunch there!"

He is like a human A to Z of public houses.

Kel and players of his era, the likes of Geoff Pimblett, Roger Millward, John Atkinson and Malcolm Reilly, are truly great athletes.

There are so many I could carry on forever.

Brisbane Broncos are another team full of great players, and on Friday night we will try to put our poor Super League form behind us when we meet them in the World Club Challenge.

It should be a fantastic occasion and a memorable one, too.

We are not only representing the club and ourselves but also the league and our country.

I cannot wait for the game and the lads who have won it before tell me it is a true highlight of their distinguished careers.

It's always good to test yourself against the best, and that is what we will be doing in Bolton.

Any neutrals, please come and cheer us on. Your support will be greatly appreciated.

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