JAMES Roby is within touching distance of his 40th Saints-Wigan Warriors derby and is just as excited about Good Friday’s showdown at Langtree Park as the first time he locked horns with the auld enemy on August 20th, 2004.
On that occasion debutant Roby scored two tries but finished on the losing side as Saints fell to a 27-18 defeat in front of 16,424 fans at what was then the JJB Stadium.
At the other end of the scale. assistant coach Jamalh Lolesi can almost count his derby day experiences on one hand but after three years at the club he is fully aware what the outcome means to both sets of players and their fans.
Roby, who has faced the Cherry and Whites on 37 occasions - 39 if you included two friendlies - said: “I always get a buzz when the derbies come around - and it’s no different this week.
“There’s always an extra edge in training and we are counting down to the match full of anticipation.”
The 30-year-old hooker went on: “Wigan are a fantastic team and we know we will have to be at our best to beat them but we are desperate to pick up two points and rectify the setback we suffered at Leeds last week.
“In terms of the 80 minutes, it is pretty similar to the intensity of any other fixture but the main difference is the emotion and atmosphere it creates on the day and the desire of both sets of players to ensure their fans go home with a big smile on their faces.”
Roby added: “It’s the first derby of the season and we will want to put down a marker as we face some tough matches in the next few weeks.
“We haven’t been at our best so far this season, as a team and individuals, but we are getting there and with the pitches becoming drier I think you will see a more positive and improving Saints’ side heading in the right direction.”
Kiwi Lolesi, who moved to Langtree Park to join Nathan Brown’s staff ahead of the 2013 season, admitted: “I didn’t know what a derby match meant to the people of St Helens before I arrived but I quickly learned.
He said: “The atmosphere is unbelievably exciting and most matches go right down to the wire and I don’t thing this one will be any different.
“I have played in some big games in Australia but a Saints-Wigan derby is right up there with the best.”
St Helens will go into the match without powerhouse forward Atelea Vea who is suffering from a soft tissue injury.
“Atelea is expected to be out of action for a couple of weeks but apart from our long-term injuries to Adam Swift and Mark Percival and the continued absence of Jonny Lomax we have no other worries ahead of the game,” said Lolesi.
It will be a case of focusing on the Wigan clash and then worrying about the next hurdle which will be provided by Widnes at the Select Security Stadium on Easter Monday.
The Vikings are currently top of the table but their lofty perch comes as no surprise to Roby,
Roby, who made his Super League debut against the Vikings in March 2004, said: “They have been building their squad over the past few years and deserve the attention they are getting at the moment, but we will be trying to hunt them down on Monday.”
Both Saints fixtures will be featured live on Sky TV.