Super League stars should be hailed as heroes for super-human efforts

St Helens chairman Eamonn McManus believes rugby league owes a debt of gratitude to its players for their role in completing the 2020 season.

Super League stars were subjected to pay cuts at every club, played out the longest season in the competition’s history and still provided remarkable entertainment that culminated in the unforgettable Grand Final conclusion.

McManus says Jack Wesley’s last second winner for Saints was unlike anything his seen in his two decades in charge of the club – and epitomised everything good about the sport.

McManus explained: “These players have all taken a major pay cut all year without complaint and had a two-month extension of their season into winter.

“They’ve played in empty stadia with huge restrictions on their professional and private lives due to Covid protocols, and have become even more motivated and professional by the end of it. All rugby league fans should realise how lucky we are to have young athletes like that in our sport.

“Rugby league produces some crazy moments and St Helens have had more than their share of last second and last minute wins. But given the stature of the Grand Final, what went before it and what was riding on it, I don’t think anyone could imagine a finish to a game like that.”

McManus’ title celebrations were restricted to a 3am takeaway service station drive-through after the long journey back from Hull FC’s KCOM Stadium. Now he hopes that rugby league can emerge from a tumultuous year and move forward again in 2021.

McManus added: “It was odd after the game – I’m lucky enough that was my 10th Grand Final as chairman and we’re all used to the atmosphere of the crowd and the noise. But in a way, because it was so different, it made it even more special because it was a very private thing for the players.

“They’ve done it themselves all season, encountering more challenges than they’ve had in their lives before and hopefully more than they ever will again. To come through and produce a display like that – and Wigan as well – was remarkable. It was certainly one of the highest paced and most intense games I’ve seen.

“This year has been tough for everyone on the financial side and impossible to plan from week to week because we don’t know what was going to happen. Crisis bring out the best and the worst in people, and I only saw the best in everyone at St Helens.

“Everybody took wage cuts on the staff and they went above and beyond to work much harder than usual in a stressful and unusual environment. I think we’ve broken the back of it by getting to the end of the season and hopefully things settle down now.”

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