It was a matter of so close yet so far for St Helens last season, bowing out late in the finals to eventual grand finalists, the Warrington Wolves – but under new Australian coach Nathan Brown, Saints players have renewed desire to win trophies for the club.
With the season just around the corner and pre-season being the usual hard slog, to get players in shape and raring to go come round 1, St Helens hooker James Roby is excited about what is to come under new coach Nathan Brown.
“Yeah, it’s an exciting period for us, we’ve done all this hard work training in pre-season in the cold weather and we’ve had a great time, obviously with Nathan Brown and Jahmaal Lolesi coming in as well,” said Roby.
“It’s a bit of new input and new ideas, but having said that, we’ve kind of stuck to similar structures that we’ve had in the past, so it’s not too early for people and of the new lads that have come in, everyone’s fitting in fine.”
“It’s been nice to have everyone here from day 1 and we’re all on the same page, we’ve all got exactly the same amount of work and we’re at that stage now where we just want to get out on the field, and do our job.”
With inconsistency in their game last season and results going against them, the season could be described as a bit of a rollercoaster, with lock Mark Flanagan citing this, but with young players who are more experienced and fresh new faces, Flanagan believes the club is strong heading into the new season.
“We had a few ups and downs during the season, but we’ve still got quite a young squad – we had a lot of young players, the likes of Tommy Makinson and those types of fellas really stepped up last year and they’ll be a lot better for the experience,” said Flanagan.
“We’ve brought some good players in as well, with Jordan Turner and Willie Manu from Hull, and young Alex Walmsley, who has really impressed during pre-season, so putting all those factors into it, I think we’ll have a good season.”
“We’ve got a good culture at the club, I think, and I noticed that when I first came here – a good culture and a lot of good senior pros that expect the best from younger fellas and kinda lead the way.”
“Even though we did pretty well last year, it still wasn’t good enough for the players and this club, so hopefully we can pick up some silverware this year.”
St Helens back Francis Meli is no stranger to the St Helens side, and he knows that with new coach Nathan Brown at the helm, a coach he is familiar with, now is the time to start winning trophies.
“It’s good to be around here, I’ve been here a long time and experience is a big part, and I’ve sort of being around the town and I know what the team means to the town and I know what Nathan Brown is all about,” said Meli.
“Not to win anything for a long time now, it’s important to me and I was there when success was high, I was there when we went through a bad ride, and I think it’s important for us to get back on to that winning era.”
Boasting key international forwards, all of whom will play a big part in the club’s success in 2013, new recruit Alex Walmsley is excited to play alongside them, but is still in awe at the chance to do so.
“I’m in a bit of awe at some of them, but it’s amazing how you pick stuff up off them just being with them, you know, watching them and talking to them. You’re always learning, because they are that good,” said Walmsley.
Walmsley, who has a dual-registration contract with his previous side, the Batley Bulldogs as well, is keen to go out there and show what he can do if given the chance, as well as to train hard.
“I’m hoping to just get a few minutes under my belt and it’s going to be tough to try and get into the first team, as there’s some great players in my position, so that’s going to be really tough, but hopefully, personally, I’m wanting to get a few minutes under my belt,” said Walmsley.
“I am dual registered with Batley, so at least the positive thing is that I’ll be playing week in and week out, whether it’s with St Helens or with Batley, but it’s still good learning stuff, which is a good thing.”
For fellow new recruit Jordan Turner, it was the allure and potential to win trophies at St Helens, that drew him to the club.
“From my point of view, that’s my goals in my career, and I’ll do whatever it takes to be able to win trophies,” said Turner.
“It means a lot to me and I’m looking forward to trying my best. It’s [the Superleague season] is really long when you think about it and with the Challenge Cup in between as well, but as I said, I personally think the thing is to take it week by week.”
“You can only look at the next game that’s in front of you, and if you do that and go out to win every week, then you should have no problems.”
With new coach Nathan Brown still learning as much as the players, half Jonny Lomax says the introduction of new ideas and techniques at the club, defining training to specific positions to get the best out of players.
“He’s definitely brought a couple of new ideas himself and along with Jahmaal Lolesi as well and Kieron Cunningham, so training’s been made really specific because of the positions that they’ve played in the past and because of that, I personally feel as if I’ve improved,” said Lomax.
“I’m sure that after talking to a few of the lads, they do as well.”
With the key to win the ultimate prize, the premiership at season’s end, that is the goal that the club and individual players are setting themselves.
“Obviously it’s good when you get there [the grand final] and you don’t win it anyway, but they’re the big games you want to play in and that’ll be a goal, where we try and make the finals.