By STEVE MASCORD
ST HELENS coach Paul Wellens has revealed his team was – and remains – prepared to support their Australian counterparts in any industrial action – as long as it doesn’t mean the World Club Challenge being called off.
The Rugby League Players Association (RLPA) had threatened to delay kick-offs by half an hour and tape over the NRL logos on their jerseys as the Pre-Season Challenge started on Thursday.
The union and the governing body are at loggerheads over a Collective Bargaining Agreement and there had been fears of an all-out strike. The planned actions were abandoned due to progress in talks late last week but they remain a possibility in week two.
“I don’t think we ever felt any doubt about the fixtures going ahead – I don’t think we’d have come on the plane if we thought otherwise,” Wellens said.
“We were very confident the games were going ahead, but with those actions, that’s obviously a matter for the players over here.
“But what we certainly want to do as a club, and certainly the players who play, is respect their stance on that.
“They’re fighting for something they feel is important and even though it’s not our fight, they are players, as our players are, and we respect what they are fighting for.
“If any action would have taken place, we’d have supported it, other than cancelling the game because that’s what we’ve come here to do.”
Wellens also dismissed concerns that the heat at Penrith on Saturday could reach 40 degrees Celsius.
“The one thing quite a lot of the Australians mention when we come over is the heat,” he said.
“What people have got to realise is we do occasionally have hot days in the UK as well – and trips to Toulouse and trips to Perpignan. We’ve had those experiences.
“We played Castleford at Wembley in 2021, which was 100 degrees Fahrenheit pitch side. Lads have had experiences of these types of challenges. Obviously, it’s different to what we’re used to.
“But we make no excuses there. The conditions are the conditions and we will adapt accordingly.”