Morgan Knowles says that “villains” St Helens deserve to take their place in history after a gripping third title win in a row.
Victory equalled Leeds Rhinos’ record of eight Grand Finals victories, and moved Saints clear with nine Super League wins in total, having triumphed in the first summer season of 1996 under the old table-topping format.
It also completed this year’s double after their July Wembley win over Castleford in the Challenge Cup, marking the current team down as a genuine dynasty after also lifting the League Leaders’ Shield in 2018 and 2019.
Yet Knowles – a near constant source of work-rate and industry from loose forward over those last four seasons – believes the club’s achievements were overlooked during an Old Trafford build-up that often focused on their opponent’s journey.
Knowles said: “Catalans have been brilliant and they’ve only had a short history in Super League. They’ve done amazing, the expansion is really positive for the game and I’m definitely happy about that.
“They’re probably going to be in more Grand Finals, Steve Mac (coach McNamara) has done a great job and they’ve recruited the right kind of players.
“But to be honest I think we deserve more credit. We do get portrayed as the villains. We’ve been the best team for the last three or four years, although we didn’t win it in ’18.
“But the consistency we’ve had – the win percentage has been better than any other team in Super League.
“British and UK culture likes to see people fail and the underdog win, and I think it’s about time now we get the credit we deserve for three back-to-backs, the Challenge Cup and League Leaders’ along the way.
“There was definitely motivation for us because we were the villains. Unless you were a Saints fan, everyone wanted to see Catalans win and probably rightly so because they were the underdog, it would be great to see another team win it and especially a French team.
“But I’m just really proud to be a part of this group, and what we’ve done over these last few years has been special.”
The Dragons played their full part in an uncompromising, bruising encounter, and led 10-6 with 15 minutes remaining after Mike McMeeken touched down with Tommy Makinson in the sin bin.
But Kristian Woolf’s Saints have steel to go alongside their style, and clinched victory when Kevin Naiqama scored his second try in a Harry Sunderland Trophy winning performance.
The Fijian centre also crossed in the first half in his final game for the club before returning to Australia to retire.
For Saints, thoughts will turn towards a potential World Club Challenge clash with Aussie champions Penrith Panthers, an opportunity that was denied the class of 2020 due to Covid.
The two clubs have a close association, with St Helens academy teams touring Down Under every two years – Knowles was part of a 2013 team that beat a Panthers juniors side including current star half-back Nathan Cleary.
Club insiders suggest Saints would be prepared to head to Australia and spend part of their pre-season there, or host at home, and Knowles says the players would relish the test.
He added: “It would be good to get an opportunity to play them because we were robbed of that last year with Covid. Nothing can help that but it’s still unfair.”
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