McVey the key

Rugby league
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The Independent Online
If St Helens are to add the first Super League title to the Challenge Cup this season, their crucial ingredient could be a player whose role at Wembley was to sit frustratedly on the sidelines.

Derek McVey joined Saints from the Australian club Sydney Tigers too late to qualify for the Cup, but his performances in league matches have given every indication that he means to make up for that omission.

St Helens face London Broncos tonight in a match that could put them four points ahead of Wigan, their great rivals who were otherwise occupied at the Middlesex Sevens.

The club's coach, Shaun McRae, would settle for a performance from McVey like the one that helped them to beat Wigan on Good Friday, or the man- of-the-match display against Oldham with which he marked his return after Wembley last week.

"It was a fairly frustrating experience at Wembley," McVey said. "I knew I was Cup-tied when I came over from Australia, but not having been to Britain I didn't realise the enormity of it."

The only way to make up for that disappointment now, he believes, is to help Saints win the Super League.

"I came here with the ambition to win the championship. I'm looking at going through unbeaten. With the team we've got and if we stay fit - why not? The only thing that can beat us is ourselves. If we can keep focused for 22 rounds, there's no real reason why we should get beaten. Having said that, if we go out and drop our guard against the Broncos, they could knock us off."

Four years as a Sydney first-grader with the Tigers have given McVey a healthy respect for many of London's Australian players.

"I'm probably more frightened of London than any other player at Saints, because I know from playing against them in Australia the ability that they have there," he said. "And to win at Leeds from 18 points down with 12 men was a remarkable performance."

If the Broncos are to upset McVey's calculations, they will have to cope better than any other side has so far done with his ability to unload the ball in the tackle. At a conservative estimate, McVey has set up a dozen tries since his arrival with deft handling after defenders assumed they had got him tied down.

"I'm just playing my natural game, really," he said. "What I need is players running up in support and the support play here at St Helens is just enormous. That has helped me a lot and the crowd seem to have taken to me because of it. But it is easy to play well in such a good team."

The Knowsley Road crowd certainly makes a difference to him. His Australian club had long ceased to pull in large numbers. "But here, I haven't played in front of fewer than 10,000. It just gives you such a lift."