St Helens keen to mark Kristian Woolf’s exit with ‘one final trophy’

·3 min read
Woolf will bring the curtain down on his three-year stay in Super League after Saturday’s Grand Final  (PA)
Woolf will bring the curtain down on his three-year stay in Super League after Saturday’s Grand Final (PA)

England forward Joe Batchelor says the St Helens players will be motivated by a desire to send popular coach Kristian Woolf out on a high in Saturday’s 25th Super League Grand Final against Leeds Rhinos.

Woolf, who built on the success of his predecessor Justin Holbrook, will bring the curtain down on his three-year stay in Super League after the Old Trafford showdown and Batchelor is hoping he can leave with his 100 per cent Grand Final record intact as Saints seek an unprecedented fourth consecutive triumph.

“We want to reward Woolfy with one final trophy and one final performance that befits what he’s all about,” Batchelor said.

“In the three years he’s been here, I think we’ve delivered performances that he represents and hopefully we can do it one more time for him.”

Saints are favourites despite the absence of prop Alex Walmsley but Batchelor says they will not underestimate the Rhinos, who finished the regular season with seven wins from their last eight matches under new coach Rohan Smith to snatch fifth spot before putting out Catalans Dragons and Wigan on their way to a record 14th Grand Final.

“They’ve been brilliant,” Batchelor said. “I’ve got the utmost respect for them and have been really impressed with what they’ve done over the last 10 weeks and beyond since Rohan came in.

“We’re going to face one of the toughest, if not the toughest game of the season. We’re going to have to be right on the top of our game if we are going to come away as champions.”

Among those standing in the way of a historic fourth straight Grand Final win is former St Helens second-rower James Bentley, from whom Batchelor inherited the number 12 shirt at the start of the year.

“He’s someone we know well,” Batchelor said. “His performances at the back end of the season have been phenomenal.

“We know exactly what he’s about and what he’s going to try and do. We need to make sure we do a job on him and the other 12 players that are out there for Leeds.

“I’m sure he’ll be trying to wind us up, he’s got a few things from when he was with us that he will try and niggle us with. I’m sure it will be a great battle between us.”

A second successive Grand Final win would cap a breakthrough year for the 27-year-old Batchelor, whose outstanding form for his club earned him a run-out for England against the Combined Nations All Stars in June and who looks to be an automatic pick for the World Cup.

“At the start of the year I just wanted to make sure I was playing week in, week out for St Helens,” he said.

“Woolfy rewarded me with the 12 shirt this season so I had to repay him and make sure I delivered performances that made sure I kept the shirt.

“I was hoping we would win games on the back of that and have some success as a team.

“It’s not quite finished yet. We have to make sure we get the result that we want on Saturday before we can start reflecting on anything.

“It would be special to be a part of history but we can’t get carried away with all that. It’s a proud day when you get to represent your country so certainly playing for England was the highlight of my career.

“Hopefully we can lift the trophy and then there’s a chance I can play in a home World Cup for England. That would be one of the proudest days of my life.”