SAINTS chairman Eamonn McManus believes the home opener with Leeds Rhinos on Thursday February 9 is a hugely important clash for both clubs.“It’s a big game,” he said at the club’s press day. “You cannot read anything into the fact Leeds had a bad season last year. Too many reasons were given for that and there is only one; half their team was missing for most of the season. A full strength Leeds side is still one of the strongest in Super League.“It is a huge game for us to kick off the season and one that is hugely important for both clubs. A lot is riding on it in terms of the atmosphere it creates in the respective clubs at the beginning of the season.”Saints fell at the semi-final stage of the competition last season and McManus says the squad is better equipped to challenge on all fronts this season.“We were very close to getting to a final and let’s face it we should have been there,” he added. “But that can’t disguise the fact there was a period in the season where a club like St Helens should have been doing better than it was. That said, in the second half of the season, when we got players back, results improved but I think we have a lot to make up for.“We should be having silverware on the table, that is the aim this season and I think we are better equipped to do so. We have recruited well, the younger players are more mature after last season and will be able to handle things better. We will approach the season with great sense of excitement and confidence.“I think the team has a better balance than last season. We want to win and want to win in style. The two isn’t always possible in the big games but we are capable of both so let’s see what the season holds.“We have made a huge effort in improving the team and we have had to as the competition is as strong as ever. There are five or six teams that can win it and no game is going to be straight forward.“We have gone a couple of years without silverware and that is something we really do demand at this club and is what we judge our success or on.”Tickets for the home opener are now on sale from the Ticket Office, online and via 01744 455 052.