AFTER being crowned world champions last weekend, the last thing Paul Wellens and his squad would have wanted ahead of the Super League season was the journey which lay in front of some of them on the way home.
Wellens, along with 12 players and another member of staff, were subject to a 53-hour journey, stopping off at Bangkok, Stockholm and then London Heathrow before a coach took them back up to St Helens.
With a fixture against Castleford Tigers looming today, it was hardly ideal.
“We left Sydney on 6am Sunday morning and didn’t walk through our house until 1am Tuesday morning UK time,” Wellens said.
“It was quite an arduous journey. It took us 53 hours in the end, so wasn’t ideal but we got on with it. The prep hasn’t been ideal but it was never gong to be.
“We went to Bangkok with a nine-hour stop over, into Stockholm where we had to wait seven hours, then we had a mad dash through Heathrow to get to Manchester before the gate closed on us.
“We were sent a coach to drive us back to St Helens. It was like Planes, Trains and Automobiles – it was an experience!
“There were 12 players and two coaching staff with me included, but the rest of the group got home in pretty good fashion.”
That being said, when faced with an optional training session on Wednesday, every single one of the players turned up – much to Wellens’ delight.
“We had an optional session on Wednesday and everyone turned up. It was a great sign of what the players want to achieve and it fills me with a huge amount of confidence moving forward.”
With an away fixture at the Jungle today, Wellens knows the challenge that faces his side.
“As long as I can remember, it’s (the Jungle) always been a difficult place to go and play. It’s one of the old style rugby league grounds which is a bit unforgiving but that adds to the challenge this week.
“We are going to have go there and find a performance they are always tough to beat particularly on their own ground.
“It’s certainly a challenge that is different from last week but I’m confident the lads will approach it in the right fashion.”
The Saints boss has also hailed the impact of his mercurial halfback, Lewis Dodd, who was in inspired form for the Merseysiders in the World Club Challenge.
“He’s improved as a player by not playing, what he’s done throughout his time away is watch the game with a real detail and hone in on what he brings to the side and what makes us a better side when he’s playing.
“He showed all those qualities at the weekend. he was phenomenal in game management. He came up against Nathan Cleary who is one of if not the best player in the world. Lewis showed all the qualities as a top-class number 7.
“Through adversity last year, he’s gained a lot from that.”