St Helens coach Kristian Woolf is targeting a slice of Super League history and another Premiership this season, as Saints aim for their Grand Final win in a row.
Only one club has managed to do the ‘three-peat’ since the competition began in 1996, and that was Leeds Rhinos between 2007 and 2009.
After winning deciders in 2019 and 2020 St Helens remain hungry for more silverware. Woolf wants his team to join the history books and claim the club’s record ninth Super League title.
“It would be enormously special,” the coach said.
“There’s only been one other team that’s been able to do it, and it gives our men a real opportunity to leave a real legacy at the club. That’s a real driver for them.
“They’re an exceptional group and they have a terrific drive about them, a terrific work ethic as well. They’re certainly going to give themselves every chance.”
“The challenge becomes a little bit more difficult every year because every team is improving and wants to play their best against you. It’s tough enough to win one or two games at this level, let alone a competition. After winning it twice that challenge becomes greater again.
“You can see through the way teams have recruited this year that the competition itself is going to be of a higher level again, so the challenge becomes a bit bigger on all fronts. And that’s one I think our group is really up to.”
St Helens won last year’s Grand Final in the most dramatic circumstances possible, with Jack Welsby scoring the winner against Wigan after Tommy Makinson’s field-goal attempt bounced off the post in the dying seconds of the match.
“It certainly carried that excitement with us a for a while,” Woolf admitted.
“It’s a pretty special thing. I’ve only been here 12 months so it was extremely special for me to be a part of but the players have now won two in a row and that’s an enormous achievement, and something very special to be a part of. But coming back in and getting back to pre-season, that’s a real leveller for you.
“You’re back doing the hard work and the grind of what a pre-season is. You’re back looking at what you want to achieve this year, as opposed to what you did last year.”
The Saints squad had a later break than usual, with pre-season training only beginning after New Year.
“While we didn’t play a lot of games it was a long year and a difficult year for players, in that they had a greater mental load and more things to cause stress,” said Woolf.
“So we wanted to make sure they got a really good break so we didn’t come back until after New Year. We’re happy with how they’re travelling; all the players have come back in good condition and they’re all working really hard, which is exactly what we need from them.”
Woolf expects Wigan to again present a strong challenge to his side, along with the likes of Warrington, Hull FC and others.
“It was such a good game in the Grand Final because of the closeness of the contest and the intensity with which both teams were able to play,” he said.
“We’ve improved as a squad on paper and so have they, which adds to a great competition between the two teams again. Warrington on the back of their recruitment, not just Greg Inglis but the two young frontrowers that they’ve signed, will become a stronger team once again and will be right in the mix.
“Hull FC showed their potential at the back-end of the year and they’re going to carry some confidence with a new coach. Huddersfield have made some really good improvements and have a new coach, and I don’t think you can write off the likes of Wakefield and Salford.
“The whole competition is going to go up a step and for fans that’s really exciting.”
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