Naiqama focused on a fond farewell
St Helens take on Catalans Dragons on Saturday 9 October in the 2021 Super League Grand Final!
Kevin Naiqama is preparing to bid farewell to St Helens on Saturday Evening. The Fijian international will return to Australia at the conclusion of the 2021 Betfred Super League season, leaving the club after a hugely successful three-year period.
The experienced centre has been an important and reliable asset to a Saints side that have tasted overwhelming success since he joined the club in 2019. A Dream Team member during his maiden season at the Saints, Naiqama is an important cog in the wheel of this St Helens juggernaut.
Since arriving at the Totally Wicked Stadium, Naiqama has won back-to-back Grand Finals, a League Leaders’ Shield and most recently, a Challenge Cup medal. Now, he has the chance to sign out with a third Grand Final ring.
Naiqama’s time at St Helens has unsurprisingly exceeded his expectations - he admitted the stars had aligned at just the right time when he arrived, and he has been able to enjoy the fruit of the clubs labour.
He said: “I knew what Saints were about with their proud history and winning silverware but if you’d have told me I’d experience what I have in the past three years, I would have found that really hard to believe.
“The stuff that we have achieved, I don’t think the depth of it will resonate with me until I’m past this point. When I reflect on these past three years, it’s been nothing short of amazing. I can’t speak more highly of my time here at St Helens.
“The foundation was laid when Justin Holbrook was here through his era. Then Kristian Woolf coming in and he’s been able to add value and make us better. For me and Cootie (Lachlan Coote), we’ve just come through at the right time when this group of players are performing amazing and consistently on a weekly basis. I’ve been lucky to be part of this group and what they’ve achieved so far.”
Not one to rest on his laurels, Naiqama is acutely aware that the jobs not done yet. Despite the club’s emphatic success over the past three years, they are still hungry for silverware – and Naiqama is maintaining a razor-sharp focus.
“I’ve still got a job to do. There’s a real tough team standing in front of us in Catalans and they’re not going to lie down. They’re not here to make up the numbers, they’re here for a reason. So, for us, it’s going to be preparation as normal and come Saturday and be ready to go.
“I detach myself from all of the external stuff that comes with it, like the talk of the three-peat and the titles. It can get a bit overwhelming, so my prep is very narrow focused; all I’m looking at is getting myself best prepared for the game as I do every week.”
St Helens will be expecting the unexpected when they face the Dragons on Saturday. The newly crowned League Leaders’ have beaten Saints twice in their three meetings this year, including a dramatic golden point comeback last month in Newcastle.
And Naiqama is under no illusions about the threat Catalans pose, as they aim to slay the Dragons at the Theatre of Dreams.
“They’ve been the best team all year. They were the League Leaders and there for a reason. They’ve been the most consistent team all year and deserve the League Leaders’ Shield.
“We know Catalans are going to turn up and give it their best. It’s going to be a really tough game come Saturday.
“We paid the price (at Magic Weekend) – when you don’t play for 80 minutes it can cost you the game and that happened to us. For us it was more than a loss; we’ve taken our biggest lesson from that game.
“It’s been a really defining moment for the team and now we’re excited to have this opportunity to play Catalans. They’ve beaten us twice and even know we did dominate for most of the game at Magic Weekend, they still beat us. For us, there’s still that hurting feeling from that game, but we get redemption this Saturday and we can’t wait to play them.”
Vengeance will be at the forefront of St Helens' mind on Saturday Night as they search for a history equalling three-peat. But whatever the outcome, there is no doubt that Naiqama has played an integral role in creating a dynasty at the Saints.
Tickets for the Betfred Super League Grand Final are priced from £30 and are available to purchase here.