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Last Updated: Friday, 27 April 2007, 10:23 GMT 11:23 UK
Jon Wilkin column
Jon Wilkin

By Jon Wilkin
St Helens back row

Sometimes you have to hold your hands up and praise the opposition. That was the case after an enthralling encounter at Headingley.

Leeds really turned it on in the second half and produced some very entertaining stuff.

I'm sure there is some kind of mutation going on at the national camps, children disappearing behind a curtain then reappearing with a beard, deep voice and a fixation about holding the TV remote

We performed poorly, but sometimes that's down to your opponent's skill rather than your own errors.

I thought our young players did very well and will learn far more about their own game in defeat. They now know what is required at the top level.

Talking of the youngsters, it amazes me just how big some of them are.

I'm sure there is some kind of mutation going on at the national camps, children disappearing behind a curtain then reappearing with a beard, deep voice and a fixation about holding the TV remote.

In all seriousness, they are getting bigger, stronger and faster, which means our development system seems to be bearing fruit.


I sometimes can't help but compare rugby league to other sports and wonder how people perceive our game.

As an outsider looking in on football, I associate our national game with money, champagne, speed, skill, flash cars and prawn sandwiches.

It has become a global organism fuelled by big bucks and corporate sponsorship.

If people wanted to watch superstars at amazing venues with immaculate facilities, then football is always going to be the people's choice

When I look at rugby league, I think of limited funds, bitter, speed, strength, family saloons and pies.

My point is that rugby league will never ever be perceived as a glamour sport, and nor should it be. It should be marketed as a family game that has stuck to its traditional roots.

I'm not suggesting the game shouldn't look to evolve, but if people wanted to watch superstars at amazing venues with immaculate facilities, then football is always going to be the people's choice.

Rugby league should be an alternative and altogether different experience.


Last Sunday I went down to watch the end of Steve Prescott's charity match at Knowsley Road.

It was like a Madame Tussauds of rugby league legends in the bar after the game. I'm making reference to the stiff, almost lifeless, expressions on the faces of the veterans who had been playing.

Anthony Sullivan walked past with a fat lip, murmuring how he now remembered why he'd stopped playing.

Apollo Perelini then limped in to the room. At least I thought it was a limp. It could have been a stylish Samoan swagger.

A particular highlight for me was seeing the players turn on guest referee Karl Kirkpatrick, making him the base of a human pile-on

It was a fantastic to see so many people supporting Steve and his family. A particular highlight for me was seeing the players turn on guest referee Karl Kirkpatrick, making him the base of a human pile-on.

It is always strange seeing players I admired as a kid, but to see them in the bar at Knowsley Road was so surreal. If only Ray French had been there to commentate!

These players made me want to play the game and it's awesome to see them turn out for Steve.

But I don't think it can have been a pretty sight the next morning. I expect a lot of them were putting in decent imitations of Neanderthal man, with hunched backs and dragging feet, grunting at their partners.

Rugby league can be a brutal game.


This week we travel to Harlequins for an awkward fixture at the Twickenham Stoop.

Ade Gardner
It's not all about scoring tries for St Helens winger Ade Gardner

Quins turned us over at the start of the season, so we must prepare very well for the game and ensure we have the right mentality to compete for every second of the game.

The squad will journey down to London the day before the game, allowing the players time to relax and enjoy each other's company.

I'm gutted not be involved because of my broken hand. I obviously miss playing, but I will also miss not being able to ring my team-mates on the room-to-room hotel phones and simulate flatulence noises.

We all do it, but Ade Gardner is particularly talented. He possesses both volume and a realistic pitch. Well done, Ade, we are all proud of you!


Sorry, Jon, but I've had to drop you from my Fantasy League team because of your injury. Which other Super League second rower would you pick instead of you?
Lucie Axford, Lancashire

Well I'm gutted, Lucie! Thanks for your faith, ha ha. There are so many good back rowers in Super League, so I don't think I could highlight one in particular. Okay, Mike Bennett. He always tops the tackle count and seems to be getting over the line quite often this year.

Liverpool is European capital of culture in 2008 and Saints carry the logo on your shorts. Do you think there is scope for Saints to get a lot of support from Liverpool over the next few years?
Mick Dalton, Liverpool

Without doubt, Mick. Saints are looking to provide an alternative to football in Liverpool and I hope people from the area respond to the work being done by our development team. Liverpool has a lot of untapped potential and it could really be a goldmine.

Jon, when a player is unfortunate enough to have a long lay-off through injury is it more difficult to be disciplined with your lifestyle and not drink and eat the wrong things than if you were playing each week?
Mark O'Brien, Leeds

In many ways it is much easier to stay disciplined when you are injured, Mark. That's because players often train much harder when they are sidelined. I often feel paranoid when I'm not playing and try harder to stay in shape. Eating well is something I do regardless of injury, too. At Saints, we've got Apollo Perelini to make sure we stay in good condition, which means lots of running, weights, running, weights and some running as well. Every thing is a routine, and it's harder to get out of the routine once your in it.



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