Dave Craven: Home win needed for the good of domestic and global game

Wigan Warriors' Liam Farrell ahead of the World Club Challenge. (Picture: Paul Heyes)

Wigan Warriors' Liam Farrell ahead of the World Club Challenge. (Picture: Paul Heyes)

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HOW British rugby league could do with a night of World Club Challenge glory right now.

It would not necessarily even have to be Super League champions Wigan Warriors toppling NRL premiers Cronulla Sharks tomorrow.

I, for one, would quite happily settle for Warrington Wolves edging past Brisbane Broncos this afternoon.

Wayne Bennett, the Brisbane coach, has already fulfilled his media duties with his England hat on so – for selfish journalistic reasons, at least – it does not matter if he left in a foul, taciturn mood now.

However, the need for a Super League win in this competition is undoubtedly at a critical point.

There was so much optimism for the newly-expanded World Club Series when it first started in 2015.

A 3-0 whitewash in favour of the dominant NRL clubs soon crushed that, though, especially the painful sight of seeing St Helens – who have enjoyed some heights in this fixture before – being vanquished 39-0 at home by South Sydney.

Yet it got no better last year; another 3-0 destruction from the clinical Australians, bringing our supposed best to their knees yet again.

It is perhaps no surprise the NRL clubs began to lose interest; these were quickly turning into expensive pre-season friendlies, but in the British cold rather than warmth of Sydney.

Even treble-winning Leeds Rhinos did not escape their wrath, being annilihated 38-4 by Johnathan Thurston’s North Queensland Cowboys 12 months ago.

Brisbane put 42 points past Wigan then, too, and Sydney Roosters another 38 on hapless Saints.

At one point, the majority of NRL clubs were willing to take part in the World Club Series yet now, ahead of today’s game, Brisbane are the only side willing to join champions Cronulla for the flight over.

Bennett has his critics but he needs praising for helping to keep this thing alive.

The saving grace for all English sides 12 months ago was that none of them truly gave their best, for one reason or another.

If the two competitors this time around can deliver somewhere near their potential then that could change the status 
quo.

Warrington, who lost out in Perpignan last week, have certainly named a strong side and, after that close battle in France, should be better prepared than the Broncos.

The romantics would argue, though, it is Wigan who are destined to restore order.

Thirty years on from their epic victory over Manly at Central Park, it would be fitting if they could repeat that feat and down Cronulla.

Wigan boss Shaun Wane was man-of-the-match for his hometown club that night in 1987.

He has organised for team-mates from that classic, including Joe Lydon, Steve Hampson and Henderson Gill, to speak to his players this week to give them a feeling for what it all means to rule the world in your own back yard.

With their grit and desire, you could see them doing the business.

That said, someone who works at London Broncos, who trained against Cronulla this week, fears the Aussies will win by 20 points…

It will take some effort for Wigan to succeed but how the sport here and the World Club Series needs them to do just that.

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