SIA Soliola says last year’s injury nightmare gave him a new perspective on his career – and guarantees he will give his all for St Helens when they meet Wigan in Saturday’s Carnegie Challenge Cup semi-final at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington (4.30pm).
The 25-year-old arrived at St Helens for the start of the 2010 season, only to suffer ankle and knee injuries that forced him to miss most the campaign.
Now back to full fitness and playing a pivotal role for Saints, the former Sydney Roosters star is counting down the days until Saturday’s showpiece.
“Especially after missing last year, I’m pretty pumped for this one,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you look at Rugby League and you know how quickly you could be sidelined, so you’ve got to take your chances while they’re there.
“I started watching the Challenge Cup as a few of my mates came over to the UK. I saw a few of the Challenge Cup games during St Helens’ run of 2006 to 2008, and the environment and atmosphere looked crazy. You could see how it much it meant to the fans as well as the players.
“As you play each Challenge Cup game you know there’s nothing else, and that you’ve got to put all your eggs in one basket and just go.
“It would be nice to get to Wembley, but that’s not in our thoughts at the moment. We can’t take the focus away from Wigan because they’re going to be a tough task and we’ve got to really concentrate this week.”
While St Helens are only 80 minutes from Wembley, it is the current Engage Super League champions who stand between the Saints and a first Wembley appearance since 2008.
“Wigan do all the little things right,” said Soliola. “Their halves and their back five are strong, George Carmont and Pat Richards have a great combination, and then there’s Sam Tomkins out the back.
“On top of all that, their forwards have been doing their thing. They’ve got good direction, but if we can stop their momentum then we’ve got a chance. Their pack’s effectiveness frees up the space for Richards and Tomkins, but if we can do our jobs as forwards, apply ourselves and come with the right attitude, then we’ll be sweet.
“In these big games we’ve got to come prepared. If you’re not ready for these games, then you’ll miss the boat. For us, that started straight after last week’s game against Castleford.”