It remains one of the toughest road trips in Rugby League folklore. Ever since the UK Super League has had the rights to the World Club Challenge; the chips have been heavily stacked against the Aussie side that heads over to take on the Super League’s best.
In the latest setup for the Australian based Melbourne Storm, skipper and star rake Cameron Smith has pulled the pin on his tour of duty – as his partner is about to give birth to their first child. Totally understandable in Smith’s case – the underdone Storm will look to inject veteran utility Matt Geyer into the important role of hooker in their showdown.
The World Club Challenge is February 29th of this month and prior to that, the Storm will have had a few local hit outs in trial matches and a single warm up match in England against Halifax a few days after arriving.
The Leeds Rhinos will have had several regular season games under their belt and will be rising to peak performance. Littered with stars, the Rhinos have already accounted for the Rabbitohs in the USA and opened their Super League account with a patchy win over the Hull Kingston Rovers.
The 2008 World Club Challenge will feature some of the best world wide talent, such a shame that Golden Boot winner Cameron Smith won’t be playing against the likes of Scott Donald, Jake Webster, Brent Webb, Clinton Toopi, Keith Senior and quite possibly one of the best big men going around Jamie Peacock.
There is no questioning the talent at the Melbourne Storm, however with such a lopsided setup – they will need the likes of Cameron Smith and every ounce of luck to topple the best of the UK.
While the mismatch might frustrate some, on offer for the Australian side if they win is the unquestioned worldwide respect by beating massive odds. While it certainly would be nice to see the WCC (World Club Challenge) in Australia in future years; without the home advantage the UK sides would likely struggle more than the NRL team when it plays away.
If anyone is up to the almighty challenge it’s the NRL’s finest; the Melbourne Storm. No doubt coach Craig Bellamy would have planned long ago for the unavailability of Cameron Smith and they will certainly represent the NRL well in what should be a cracker game.