New Zealand international Lance Hohaia has told how it took some soul-searching by the St Helens players to turn around the club's fortunes following the early-season sacking of head coach Royce Simmons.
Hohaia was recruited by Simmons from New Zealand Warriors 12 months ago in an effort to turn Saints into winners following five successive Grand Final losses. However, a return to Old Trafford seemed a distant prospect two months into the season when the team found themselves out of the top eight.
Simmons paid the price for the team's dismal start, in which they won just two of their first seven matches, and Hohaia revealed: "There was a lot of soul-searching. When Royce left, I think we all looked at ourselves in the mirror and said, 'How can we be doing better?'."
He added: "As a group we really stuck tight. Obviously the fans were a little unhappy and people were writing us off and all those things can spur you on to do well as well."
Saints have not looked back since making the change and, under caretaker coaches Mike Rush and Keiron Cunningham, lost just four more matches to finish third, rounding off the regular season with a 26-18 win at table-topping Wigan.
Their impressive form continued with a 28-6 win at Warrington in the opening round of the play-offs, and Hohaia is hoping Saints can maintain their momentum when they take on the Wolves in Saturday evening's second semi-final at Langtree Park for a place at Old Trafford for the seventh consecutive year.
"Two months in, it couldn't have been further away for us but it just goes to show it's a long season and so many things can happen," said Hohaia.
"Since that day we've really chipped away at improving as players and as a team, and I think we're at the stage now where we've got some confidence and are playing some good footy.
"Hopefully that will help us this weekend. We beat Wigan away and we beat Warrington away and they've been the top sides all year, so it's a good place to be."
- Lance Hohaia
- New Zealand Warriors