James Roby not thinking about ‘fairytale ending’ ahead of World Club Challenge

James Roby not thinking about ‘fairytale ending’ ahead of World Club Challenge

Nineteen years and over 500 games after first hauling on the famous red ‘V’, St Helens captain James Roby has banished thoughts of a “fairytale ending” ahead of their World Club Challenge against Penrith Panthers in sweltering Sydney on Saturday.

The 37-year-old, who played in Saints’ 2007 win over Brisbane Broncos in Bolton, is aware a win over the reigning NRL champions would earn an elevated place in history for the current Saints squad who head into the game on the back of four Super League titles in a row.

But for Roby, whose side warmed up with an impressive victory over St George Illawarra Dragons in Wollongong last week, there is no point allowing minds to stray too much to the prospect of plaudits, with so much seemingly conspiring against Saints’ hopes of a first win on Australian soil.

St Helens v Hull Kingston Rovers – Betfred Super League – Totally Wicked Stadium
James Roby is determined to experience the feeling of being a world champion once again (Martin Rickett/PA)

“It’s in the back of everyone’s minds and people know there is potentially a legacy there and a story that will be told in years to come if we do go on and win, as well as finishing off in style from a personal point of view,” admitted Roby, who put his last year’s expected retirement announcement on hold.

“We do know what’s at stake and what the opportunity in front of us is, but what’s always worked well for us as a club is to very much live in the here and now.

“We’re all driven to achieve that, but at the same time we don’t want to waste emotional energy dreaming of the fairytale ending.”

Temperatures are expected to hit 39 degrees in Sydney, prompting organisers to delay the scheduled kick-off by almost an hour, as well as introducing an additional interchange and effectively split the game into four quarters with water breaks in the middle of each half.

In addition, Saints suffered a major blow in the build-up after forward Joe Batchelor sustained an ankle injury in the win over St George, which head coach Paul Wellens subsequently confirmed will rule him out of the opening weeks of Super League and require surgery.

Nevertheless Roby, who was a fresh-faced 21-year-old when Saints upset the Broncos 18-14 to win the title for the second time, recognised the impetus that is driving team-mates like Tommy Makinson and Jack Welsby to join him in experiencing the unique feeling of being crowned world champions.

“I’ve been lucky enough to win a few trophies but I’ve only won the World Club Challenge once,” continued Roby.

“That Brisbane team was a star-studded team, full of people I’d looked up to and admired on the television as a young kid.

St Helens v Catalans Dragons – Betfred Super League – Totally Wicked Stadium
Tommy Makinson is among those seeking a world title for the first time (Martin Rickett/PA)

“To get the chance to play against them and beat them, it is a different joy to winning the Challenge Cup or the Grand Final. When you can call yourself the best team in the world for a year, it’s a special feeling and it’s one I’d love to emulate this year with the lads.”

Penrith have allayed initial fears that they might take the pre-season clash, resumed for the first time since 2020, lightly by naming their best squad available, albeit without full-back Dylan Edwards who has been ruled out with a short-term injury.

Wellens will bring in Curtis Sironen as a straight swap for the absent Batchelor, and he has options in the backs with Tee Ritson continuing his rapid ascent following his close-season loan arrival from Barrow, and impressing in the win over St George.

“It’s a wonderful headache to have because I can look around the dressing room and know I’ve got to have difficult conversations about leaving players out,” said Wellens.

“I much prefer it that way than the decisions coming really easy for us. We’ve got some deep thinking to do about the final selection.”