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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 April 2007, 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK
Jon Wilkin column
Jon Wilkin

By Jon Wilkin
St Helens back row

Playing in any knockout competition can be a tense and intimidating prospect, and last weekend we never took anything for granted against Batley.

But after 20 minutes, we had done enough to ensure victory and could enjoy the game from that point onwards.

One thing the match displayed to me is the benefits of full-time training in terms of strength and conditioning.

Most of the lads at St Helens more or less live in the gym, and I'm sure Nick Fozzard gets his mail delivered there.

I once overheard him giving someone directions to his home, and it went something like this: "Turn left at the dumbbells and it's opposite the bench press!"

Some people are less keen to get in the gym, but everyone works hard under the guidance of conditioner Apollo Perelini, who can see round corners and can smell someone slacking from miles away.


The Challenge Cup fifth-round draw has thrown up some really interesting ties and means some big teams will miss out on the quarter-finals.

Is this grounds for the first pre-match suspension in rugby league history?

I think Leeds against Wigan is an absolute cracker, and all the other sides will be pleased that either the Rhinos or the Warriors will be missing when the draw for the last eight is made.

In light of some of the one-sided games in the last round, some people have suggested that Super League sides should be kept out of the competition until round five.

I disagree. I feel the earlier entry gives lower league sides an excellent chance to play on the big stage and often brings the best out of their players. It also provides much-needed revenue for these clubs.

Saints will face Rochdale in the last 16, which is significant for me as one of my best friends plays for the Hornets.

However, I would like to abuse my position as a BBC Sport columnist to alert all rugby league referees to the following text which I received from my pal no sooner had the draw been made.

Within seconds, this message popped up on my mobile phone: "You had better make sure you buy a head guard, Jon, or else all my dreams will come true!"

Is this grounds for the first pre-match suspension in rugby league history?


This week one of the true greats of rugby league announced his plans to retire.

Jason Robinson
Robinson will retire after this year's Rugby World Cup in France

Jason Robinson reigned supreme in the 13-a-side game before moving to the other code, where he was just as inspiring to watch.

He scored so many great tries and was one of those players who could strike fear into the hearts of any defender with slightly less pace and agility.

If you ask any rugby league player which asset they would like to have most, I am sure natural pace would be the answer more times than not.

Some would no doubt choose strength, some game sense, while several Australians I have played with would probably choose dress sense!

When he first came over, Jason Hooper looked like an extra on 'Prisoner Cell Block H'.


This week throws up one of the biggest matches in the St Helens calendar - a Good Friday game at Wigan.

What a way to start a busy Easter schedule, in front of an aggressive, capacity crowd at the JJB Stadium.

It is one of those fixtures that has me dreaming in the days leading up to the game.

And it's a match that has locals on either side of the divide talking about it in pubs, clubs and shops.

Anyone lucky enough to have tickets should expect a huge occasion, one which I know Saints will be up for.


Q. Jon, I have a daily ritual of superstitions that I have to perform each morning, but do any of you guys have any pre-match superstitions?
Kate Gray, Liverpool

A. When I first started playing, I had loads of superstitions, stupid ones like wearing the same pants in a game, getting ready the same time before kick-off, and listening to the same music.

But I realised that all these superstitions did was distract me and made me nervous. Now I just like to have a laugh and keep relaxed.

Mike Bennett wears the same chest wig to every game, though, and Ade Gardner sticks on a novelty tash before he runs out every week.

I don't really believe that it is productive to worry about whether you've remembered the right undies or the right CD.

Having said that, one thing we all do when we play at home is touch a large sign saying 'Welcome to Knowsley Road' as we run out.

Q. Jon, would you ever move on to another sport after rugby like golf, snooker or darts?
Scott Brown, Burntwood

A. I am pretty useless at all the sports you have listed. But I really like squash and would love to play that more once my rugby career is over.

Q. Whenever Saints warm up before a game, you guys always do an arm and leg-stretching exercise but Ade Gardner never seems to. Instead he practices catching high balls. I was just wondering why he doesn't do the same as everyone else?
Claire, St Helens

A. Not sure. I always look up and am slightly confused by it myself.

Ade does warm-up very rigorously and I think he chooses to stretch himself prior to the point where we all stretch.

It's just something he likes to do, nothing more than that really. Everyone is different and it's not a strict warm-up. Everyone does things to their own requirements.

Q. You've expressed your interest in cricket. Say if you had to choose a cricketer past or present to bat for your life who would you choose? Personally I'd choose Geoff Boycott.
Danny Collinson, Withernsea

A. Danny, if I had to choose a cricketer to bat for my life, it would be Australian Steve Waugh.

I know he's not English but he was one of the most complete players I have watched.

Kevin Pietersen nearly made it as my choice, but it definitely wouldn't be Paul Wellens. He is awful at cricket.



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