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The Jon Wilkin column: We have to be mentally tougher
11:40am Thursday 16th August 2012 in Latest News
THE concept that home advantage plays a part in sports fixtures is one that fascinates me.
There is very little evidence that a weekly change in ground changes the skill, fitness, strength or speed of your players so realistically the venue shouldn't play a part in the game.
But consistently for Saints there does seem to be a few grounds which stimulate below par performances and frustration from the players and fans.
One such ground is Belle Vue at Wakefield one of the grounds within the league with a rich and long history within the game.
It has been a notoriously tricky fixture for us for a number of years and I would presume it has been that way long before I moved over to St Helens from Hull in 2002
The league table has consistently shown Wakefield in the bottom third of the competition and St Helens always in the top third so why can such a difference in quality be closed by a one hour bus trip.
I have a few ideas why; Belle Vue carries a similar amount of ‘rustic charm’ as our beloved Knowsley Road and the fact both grounds have been used to depict the sporting venues of a time when TVs were a luxury item describes how rustic we are talking.
The away changing rooms are easily the worst in the league and the ground’s poor condition seems to seduce a reluctance to perform out of visiting players.
Those poor conditions may well contribute in some way to poor performance (although it shouldn't) I think the main reason Saints have struggled at Belle Vue is the fact we go there anticipating a close game, we talk about it being a tough place to play and inevitably our actions lead us towards a close and tough game.
The current Wakefield team thrive in games were chaos reigns and to their credit the Wildcats made the match chaotic and they took chances to score points almost every time they presented themselves.
We needed to forget about the surroundings, the vocal and intimidating fans and do what we need to do to win the game comfortably.
Going forward we need a much tougher and consistent mentality to the games we play.
I hope everyone has taken as much enjoyment out of the Olympics as I have, the patriotism and positivity that has been emitted from Olympic Park is the legacy that matters not the buildings and facilities.
We are united by a common feeling of goodwill towards people from various backgrounds performing in an array of events, some of which I have, and will continue to have little or no interest in.
But these obscure and not so obscure events captured my imagination. I think it is a lesson for rugby league. It shows that people will support a sport even if they have little or no interest in it.
The coverage, the way the games looked and felt made it an inspirational occasion for the viewers and I know many people like me would have wanted to step into the games and compete.
We need to look at how we present rugby league, talk in terms that don't alienate spectators , strip out all the jargon that means nothing to me and all sports fans and comment on what is actually happening as we have, as our game at the weekend showed, an amazing spectacle (at times) for a sport.
My highlight of the games was not necessarily the winners but the people who have committed their lives for four years, and more, for little or no monetary reward knowing they have very little chance of winning.
That’s what I love about sport and competing in general, its knowing when you can win and when you can’t but constantly being driven on by hope and striving for more.
The standout broadcaster of the Olympics was Clare Balding. She along with Olympic bronze medallist Beth Tweddle are hosting and attending a night to celebrate my appearance on A Question of Sport.
Two celebrity panels will battle it out against each other and occasionally against the entire room for an interactive night of trivia.
Tables are available for an amazing night at £800 +VAT for a premium table or £1000+ VAT for a VIP table to meet the celebs for drinks before and after and have your picture taken with an Olympic medallist. Tickets are for sale from the Langtree Park Ticket office. COYS