LAST SEASON PLACING – 1ST – GRAND FINAL WINNERS

Saints will probably be there or thereabouts again come October as the reigning champions bid to retain their Super League crown. Club legend Kieron Cunningham is the new man in charge at Langtree Park and has been tasked with building on the success the club enjoyed last year. On the field, big Tongan second rower Atelea Vea has joined from London Broncos and Travis Burns has joined for £60,000 from Hull KR. Burns’ combination with number 7 Luke Walsh looks very exciting, with Walsh in fine form last season before an horrific injury saw him break his fibula and tear ankle ligaments. The medical staff at St Helens were drastically overworked last season, with the likes of full-backs Jonny Lomax and Shannon McDonnell, Kyle Amor, Jordan Turner and co-captain Jon Wilkin all having extensive stints on the sidelines. As we saw last season, St Helens have plenty of strength in depth, as well as a versatile first team. If they can avoid similar injury problems this year, they can build on last years’ Old Trafford victory.

KEY PLAYERS

Nathan Brown was forced to use six different half-back combinations last season through injuries, but a fully fit Luke Walsh paired with Travis Burns should create all sorts of problems for Super League defences this season. The pair played together at Penrith Panthers and so shouldn’t need too much time to gel, and both are proven in Super League. Club stalwart Paul Wellens signed a contract extension until the end of the 2015 season; and his presence should also ensure the backs are given plenty of direction. Tommy Makinson’s finishing was incredible at times last season, too, and he should benefit from the creativity of Saints’ back line. James Roby was in superb form last year as well, the hooker was the league’s top tackler in 2014.

DRAWBACKS

Nathan Brown’s departure is the only negative for Saints this season. Brown led the club to their first Super League title in 8 years and League Leaders Shield since 2008. Kieron Cunningham might find himself under pressure to emulate Brown’s success. Even club chairman Eamon McManus acknowledged the difficult task facing the former Saints hooker; “The challenge ahead is an extremely big one since the competition will be stronger next season and beyond.”

STORY OF 2015

It is hard to find many problems for Saints to overcome in 2015. Nathan Brown leaving the club after guiding them to Grand Final success last year seems to be the only drawback, however his replacement is a man who has a bronze statue of himself outside the ground. Kieron Cunningham is a legend at St Helens and will command the respect of his squad from the get go. Injuries have been Saints’ main problem over the last couple of years, but last season showed that their young academy players have the ability to step up when needed. The combination between Walsh and Burns looks mouth-watering, while Mose Masoe, Kyle Amor and new boy Atelea Vea provide real clout in the forwards. James Roby very rarely has an off-day at number 9, and Tommy Makinson was third highest try scorer in Super League last year, suggesting that Saints have all the ingredients to have a very successful 2015.

PREDICTIONS:

TOP TRY SCORER – TOMMY MAKINSON

TOP POINT SCORER – LUKE WALSH

PLAYER OF THE YEAR – JAMES ROBY

LADDER – DEFINITELY MAKE THE TOP 8