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Match Preview: World Club Challenge v St George-Illawarra - 27th February 2011 at DW Stadium.
Posted by Bilko on February 25 2011 - 13:37

Wigan Warriors v St George-Illawarra Dragons - Probiz World Club Challenge.
Sunday 27th February 2011. Kick Off 7:15pm at DW Stadium, Wigan.

Match Preview

Who are St George-Illawarra?

The present guise of St George-Illawarra Dragons was born in September 1998 with a merger of both the St. George Dragons and Illawarra Steelers clubs. The Steelers were suffering big financial losses during the Australian Super League War and were close to folding. So St George largely financed the deal to merge and to this day the club still shares it home games between the old home of Dragons in Kogarah and the old Steelers home in Wollongong.

Last season saw the joint venture win it's first Grand Final with a 32-8 victory over Sydney Roosters. They had previously made the NRL Grand Final in 1999 but suffered a narrow 20-18 loss to Melbourne Storm.

Prior to the merger, Illawarra Steelers were definitely the poorer of the two clubs. They entered the then Sydney Premiership in 1982 and they only ever made the play offs twice in their eighteen years of existence.

But, St George Dragons were a glamour club of the game with 15 Championships (or Premierships as they call them over there) to their name, second only to South Sydney. But did you know that 11 of those 15 titles, actually came in a row? Yes, they won the title every year between 1956 and 1966. Greats of the game like Reg Gasnier, Johnny Raper and Graham Langlands were all afforded movie star status during this legendary spell for the club, perhaps akin the magical spell Wigan had during the late 80s and early 90s.

Since that spell they added two further titles in the late 70s but the title won by the joint venture last season had been the culmination of a 31 year wait for St George fans.

St George-Illawarra - 2010 Season

The Dragons went into 2010 off the back of a disappointing end to 2009. They had won the "minor premiership" that season but struggled in the play offs, losing 25-12 at home to Parramatta and 24-10 away at Brisbane.

In 2010 they retained the "minor premiership" with an identical won 17 lost 7 record to what the had in 2009, but this time they were far better in the play offs. They opened up with a convincing 28-0 victory over Manly-Warringah, which earned them a week off.

Then came a semi final battle against West Tigers, which proved to be an absolute classic. It took a 74th minute drop goal from Jamie Soward to clinch a 13-12 victory which took them into the Grand Final.

The Grand Final itself saw the Dragons trail 8-6 after a tight first half but they complete dominated after the break to win 32-8.

St George-Illawarra - The Team

Darius Boyd (Full Back) - Can play anywhere across the back line but has settled at full back since joining the Dragons from Brisbane ahead of the 2009 season. His try scoring strike rate dropped from 42.4% at Brisbane to a lowly 8.5% since moving to St George (Feka Paleaaesina did better than that last season for us) but he has shown his class at rep level with 6 tries in 8 Origin appearances for Queensland and 2 tries in 3 four nations appearances for Australia last Autumn.

Brett Morris (Right Wing) - A prolific try score for the Dragons with 45 tries in 49 appearances during the past two seasons. Scored in every match when Australia won the four nations tournament here in 2009 and will be a big danger for Amos Roberts to defend against.

Mark Gasnier (Right Centre) - Returned to the Dragons in the middle of last season after a two season spell playing Rugby Union in Paris. Maurice Lindsay was desperately trying to bring him to Wigan back in the summer of 2003 but the deal never happened. Gasnier has played all his Rugby League career at St George and has made 15 test appearances for Australia and 9 origin appearances for New South Wales.

Matt Cooper (Left Centre) - The 31 year old veteran is entering his 12th season of playing for the Dragons, having made his debut in February 2000. Missed a few games last year but had a good strike rate with 10 tries in 16 appearances. He's also scored 8 tries in 7 test appearances for Australia but he hasn't played for the Green and Gold's since 2006.

Jason Nightingale (Left Wing) - Represents New Zealand at test level, despite being born in Sydney, and scored a try in last year's Four Nations Final victory over Australia. Not as prolific as Morris on the opposite wing but still a big strike weapon. He scored two tries in the NRL Grand Final victory over Sydney Roosters.

Jamie Soward (Stand Off) - The goal kicker of the team with a 73.2% success rate during his Dragons career. He's a player who likes to take control having kicked 11 drop goals in the past two seasons, including a crucial one pointer than sent the Dragons into the Grand Final last season when they beat Wests Tigers 13-12.

Ben Hornby (Scrum Half) - Another veteran of the Dragons, having made his debut for them back in July 2000. Made one solo appearance for Australia when they lost 23-12 to Great Britain at Sydney Football Stadium in November 2006.

Dan Hunt (Prop Forward) - Claims this will be his Grand Final after an achilles injury ruled him out of the second half of last season. Been a one club man since making his debut for the Dragons in 2007.

Michael Weyman (Prop Forward) - Like Costigan, he was brought to the Dragons in 2009 despite an injury plagued career at Canberra. Those problems seem to be past him now and he's impressed enough to earn 4 Origin call ups for New South Wales in the past two seasons, plus he made his test debut for Australia against New Zealand in the mid season Anzac Test last year.

Adam Cuthbertson (Prop Forward/Second Row) - New signing for 2011 having joined from Cronulla. Between 2006 and 2009 he played for Manly and was part of their side that won the 2009 World Club Challenge against Leeds.

Trent Merrin (Prop Forward) - Youngster who only made his career debut for the Dragons in May 2009. Played most of last season off the bench, including in the Grand Final win over Sydney Roosters.

Dean Young (Hooker) - Can play hooker or loose forward. Has played his whole club career at the Dragons, having made his debut in March 2003. Earned his first ever test call up last autumn when he played off the bench in Australia's 34-20 away win over New Zealand in Auckland.

Nathan Fien (Hooker) - Well I could just copy and paste the previous comments about Jeremy Smith because same applies for Fien. Joined the Dragons in 2009 but missed big chunks of the middle part of both season's at this club but returned to play off the bench in last year's grand final whilst being in the New Zealand side that won both the 2008 World Cup and 2010 Four Nations.

Beau Scott (Second Row) - Was brought to the Dragon by ex coach Nathan Brown in 2007 as a second rower. Wayne Bennett switched him to centre in 2009 but he returned just 2 tries in 33 appearances in that position. When Mark Gasnier returned he was reverted back to his second row position. He played twice for New South Wales at centre in last year's Origin Series. It perhaps say's a lot about NSW's origin problems when a player who scored just 2 tries in 33 appearances at centre, make's the rep team?

Ben Creagh (Second Row) - Another player who has played all his career with the Dragons, since his debut in August 2003. Very useful second row with 18 tries in the past two seasons. Made a solo test appearance for Australia against France way back in November 2005 but has scored 4 tries in 5 origin appearances for New South Wales since 2009.

Jeremy Smith (Loose Forward) - Injury problems have truncated both his two seasons with the Dragon's so far but he did return to be part of the Grand Final winning team last year. He has been an integral part of New Zealand's success in recent years, playing in both the 2008 World Cup and 2010 Four Nation's Final victories.

Matt Prior (Utility) - Another youngster who is a wicket keeper for the England Cricket Team in his spare time. Offers great utility value, having filled in at Centre, Second Row, Loose Forward and Prop during the past two seasons.

Jarred Saffy (Forward) - A South African who made all of his 21 appearances last season off the bench. Only scored 1 try in 61 career appearances.

Match Thoughts

You know what, I'm more excited about this game than the Grand Final. The reason? Well it's been a hell of a long time since we had a night like this in our own back yard. The last time we had the chance to lift a major trophy at a home game (and that bloody league leaders tin pot trophy doesn't count) was way back in January 1996 when the old championship trophy was hauled aloft at Central Park.

Back in the early 90s we had big games at Central Park on a regular basis. Almost 30,000 turned out for the 1991 title decider against Widnes and same again for the 8 all drawn 1993 title decider than decided nothing against St Helens. We played Brisbane at Central Park in the 1992 World Club Challenge and had tour matches against Australia in both 1990 and 1994 and New Zealand in 1993. We also had two Challenge Cup ties and a Regal Trophy tie against St Helens at the old ground in that period. So big special one off games happened all the time.

Since moving to Robin Park though, we couldn't buy a big home cup draw. Despite missing out on just 3 of 33 draws that could reward a home time since we moved, a match against a Saints, Leeds or Warrington here has never happened.  Bit galling that considering we've been drawn at Headingley three times in the past four seasons.

Since the switch to summer, tour matches against Australia are no more and the big negative about the Grand Final play off system is that title deciders in your own back yard are now extinct.  Yes we have play off games but we haven't had too many of them at home in recent years. Even the Leeds one last season didn't really matter, it wasn't a must win game as was proven in the end.

So we've pretty much got a whole generation of fans now who have yet to experience this kind of night. I know some opposition fans are complaining that this game should be at a neutral venue like has been the case for the past decade, and I can understand that argument somewhat, but playing it at Wigan will make this event far more special that if it was played anywhere else.

Unlike any other British club to play the World Challenge in the past decade, we have the history of being the first English club to win it on that glorious night in October 1987 against Manly, and also being the only English side to win the trophy on Australian soil when we beat a damn good Brisbane side in June 1994.

Being the first to achieve such things, like the fact we were the first cup winners at Wembley, defines a club's history. The fact we have won the most league titles, the most Challenge Cups, the most Regal Trophies, the most Premiership Trophies and the most Lancashire Cups highlights what a great club we are further. Ok Saints won more BBC 2 Floodlit Trophies than us, but we'll give them that one. The World Club Challenge however, we only jointly hold the record for having won it most times (with Bradford), so winning on Sunday will get that record back in our own hands as well.

Now to be honest I didn't see that much of the Dragons last season but they seem to be a side similar to Wigan. I don't think they will over power us in the pack but out wide is where they can do damage. The right wing of Brett Morris and Mark Gasnier looks pretty formidable.

I think the contest will be tight but I do think Wigan will win, simply because it will be hard for the Dragon's to match our intensity for 80 minutes, having not played a competitive match yet.

Fair enough both Manly and Melbourne came in and did a job on Leeds in the past two seasons but the Rhinos shot themselves in the foot I reckon by starting the regular season half arsed. Last season Leeds lost to Castleford and Wakefield before taking on Melbourne and the year before Hull KR beat them the week before they met Leeds. The Rhinos came out with the pathetic distraction excuse but bollocks is my response to that.

Wigan had showed them how to do it with two excellent displays against St Helens and Bradford so far this year. From the off we've looked sharp, focused and bang ready for this World Club Challenge. The inspiration will be all around the Wigan team as well. The "Wigan Irregulars" (who organised all those flags you see above the south stand at every home game) will have a special display from the south stand, the 1987 winning team will all be pitchside as well and if that "footsteps of greatness" poster doesn't inspire them, nothing will! It certainly inspires me and Sunday can't come soon enough. Enjoy it!

Match Referee

Thierry Alibert (France) - Age 39
First Pro Game: Northern Ford Premiership Match - 2001
First Super League Game: Leeds 46 Huddersfield 8 - 11th July 2008
First Wigan Game: Harlequins 18 Wigan 24 - 28th February 2009

Wigan's Record when this referee is appointed

Wigan have Won 7 and Lost 1 from 8 appointments.

Video Referee

Phil Bentham

Previous World Club Challenge Results

Date Opposition
29th June 1976 Eastern Suburbs 25 St Helens 02
7th October 1987 Wigan 08 Manly-Warringah 02
4th October 1989 Widnes 30 Canberra 18
2nd October 1991 Wigan 21 Penrith 04
31st October 1992

Wigan 08 Brisbane 22

1st June 1994 Brisbane 14 Wigan 20
17th October 1997 Brisbane 36 Hunter 12*
22nd January 2000

St Helens 6 Melbourne 44

26th January 2001 St Helens 20 Brisbane 18
25th January 2002 Bradford 41 Newcastle 26
14th February 2003

St Helens 00 Sydney Roosters 38

13th February 2004 Bradford 22 Penrith 4
4th February 2005 Leeds 39 Canterbury 32
3rd February 2006 Bradford 30 Wests 10
23rd February 2007 St Helens 18 Brisbane 14
29th February 2008 Leeds 11 Melbourne 4
28th February 2010

Leeds 10 Melbourne 18

1st March 2009

Leeds 20 Manly 28

*Final of an extended tournament

Hot Scoring Streaks

  • Harrison Hansen has scored in both of Wigan's league matches so far.

  • George Carmont has scored in both of Wigan's league matches so far.

Cold Scoring Streaks

  • Paul Prescott holds the clubs current longest cold streak having now not scored a try in 73 appearances since scoring his only Wigan try in the away trip at Hull Kingston Rovers on 9th September 2007.
  • Stuart Fielden has not scored a try in 51 appearances since scoring in a Challenge Cup tie away at Wakefield in May 2009.
  • Lee Mossop has not scored a try in 19 appearances since the opening day of last season against Crusaders.
  • Paul Deacon has not scored a try in any of his last 14 appearances since he scored his only Wigan try against Salford on 11th April 2010.

  • Sean O'Loughlin has not scored a try in 12 appearances since scoring against Salford on 9th July 2010.

  • Andy Coley has not scored a try in 11 appearances since scoring against Catalans on 4th July 2010.

Ticket Details

Contact RFL or Wigan Ticket Office for availability details.

UK TV Coverage

Live Coverage Sunday 7:00pm
Replay Sunday 11:00pm
Highlights Sunday 11:25pm
Replay Late Sun 1:30am
Replay Monday 1:30pm

International TV Coveraga (All Times Local)

Middle East LIVE Saturday 11:15pm (UAE) Show Sports 1 HD
Australia LIVE Monday Morning 6:00am Fox Sports 3 HD
New Zealand LIVE Monday Morning 8:00am Sky Sport 1 HD

National Radio Commentary

BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra - Commentary can be heard across the UK on DAB Digital Radios and channel 706 on Freeview boxes. Coverage begins at 7:10pm.

Local Radio Commentary

BBC Radio Manchester (95.1FM) - Build up to the game will commence from around 6pm with full match uninterrupted commentary from Jack Dearden and Trevor Hunt.

102.4 Wish FM - Coverage begins at 7pm with full match uninterrupted commentary from Mark Wilson and ex Wigan forward Denis Betts.

Weather Forecast

Light showers. Could be nippy come kick off time.

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