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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 February 2007, 15:13 GMT
Jon Wilkin column
Jon Wilkin

By Jon Wilkin
St Helens back row

The unpredictable nature of sport always fascinates me.

It's something that makes the process of watching and taking part so addictive.

But that unpredictability, plus the constant doubt, can haunt a lot of Super League players.

Front rowers are excluded, of course, as traditionally their thoughts are filled with eating, sleeping and ensuring one foot follows the other whilst walking (I think I'm going to get squashed in training for that one!).

Our fixture against Harlequins highlighted just how unpredictable our game can be.

We were made massive favourites to get a positive result but knew Quins could produce a good performance. They always seem to at Knowsley Road.

Ade Gardner (right)
Ade Gardner is always one of the more emotional characters in the team

I cannot praise them enough. They played with intelligence and adapted brilliantly in truly adverse conditions. They held the ball well, played with more discipline than we did and deserved their victory.

As for the Saints players, it was bizarre to walk into training on Monday morning with an empty, frustrating feeling.

The physical battering we take in a game coupled with the pain experienced post-match only seems bearable if accompanied by a cheerful mood and positive feeling that only a victory can produce.

As professionals, the success of our week is defined by one result at the weekend. It's the one thing that I don't like about the job.

After working so hard all week or all year, people's perception of how good you are can totally change after 80 minutes of rugby league.

But that's an occupational hazard and I would not change what I do for the world.

People react so differently to victory and defeat.

Ade Gardner is always one of the more emotional characters in the team.

After a good win, his energy and spontaneity are well documented but in defeat he turns into Oscar the Grouch - the grumpy little bin creature off Sesame Street!

Luckily, we haven't seen much of him over the last 12 months.

Jason Hooper
Hooper: caught white-handed
We are very fortunate at Saints to have a good blend of personalities, from the mature - Lee Gilmour, Paul Sculthorpe and Keiron Cunningham - to the very mature - Willie Talau and Mike Bennett.

Then comes the dominant group of childish people - everyone else in the squad - who really should know better.

The immature side of any sports team is never more obvious than through the vehicle of practical jokes.

In fairness, I dish them out and have also been the recipient of a few crackers.

One day after a hard day's training I returned home to find my front door had been painted into the pattern of the Saints home shirt!

Jason Hooper turned up to training the next day with white paint all over his hands while my neighbours also provided me with several car registrations and very accurate descriptions of the other culprit!

All I can say is that every dog has its day. Take note, Jason and Paul Wellens.


The first week of the season always throws a few spanners into the works of the pre-season predictions.

Hull KR's Ben Cockayne
Hull KR's Ben Cockayne scored the winning try against Wakefield

Newcomers Hull KR surprised an energetic Wakefield side while Mark Edmondson, a former team-mate of mine at Saints, assures me Salford pushed Leeds all the way in a tough game.

As for Warrington, their win at Wigan was not a total surprise as they have recruited so well.

It looks like being very close at the top, middle and bottom of the table this season, but you can never predict what will happen.

Who's to say one team won't run away with it and another will struggle at the bottom all year? Let's just wait and see.

This weekend we play Wakefield away, always a tough fixture and one which we are always very wary of.

Both teams will be trying to improve after defeats last time out, so it should be a fascinating game.


Q: How do you rate Hull KR's chances of staying up this season? Do you fancy a move back home to help them stay up? Mowatt, Hull.

A: I have told lots of friends and players in the North-West not to underestimate the Robins. They have a great coach.

They must start well and I reckon win around five or six of their home games this year and just hope they can pick up the odd win away.

I am contracted to Saints at the moment but the Robins are close to my heart. I wish them good luck this year. They are a great club.

Q: Who is the hardest tackler in Super League at the moment? Andy Platten, Immingham.

A: Without doubt it is Keiron Cunningham. He has easily been the biggest hitter in British rugby for a number of years. It's like being attacked by a large bear when he tackles you - painful and life threatening at times.

Q: As a Wigan fan, I think the Wigan-St Helens derby is the biggest derby match. Two questions for you: With you being a Hull KR fan and a former player, which do you think is the biggest derby? And secondly, are you looking forward to the Wigan-St Helens derbies this year because both clubs will have good teams? Ant, Wigan

A: A derby is an individual thing. It cannot be measured in terms of size really. The spirit of a derby comes from the interaction of people in the local communities and their own passion for the game. For this reason, the Hull KR v Hull derby means a lot to me.

However, the longer I live over here the more I am coming to understand how important the Saints-Wigan game is. I feel so lucky to be able to play in the atmosphere you fans create. It should be a cracking game this year and I can't wait.

SEE ALSO
Saints' Wilkin gets two-match ban
06 Feb 07 |  St Helens
Huddersfield 10-18 St Helens
04 Feb 07 |  Super League
Hard act to follow
02 Feb 07 |  Super League
Jon Wilkin column
02 Feb 07 |  Rugby League
Jon Wilkin - our new player columnist
31 Jan 07 |  Rugby League


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