St Helens star Alex Walmsley, 23, has joined the Total Rugby League team as a columnist. Check back every Tuesday to read his thoughts on the game’s hot topics…
First things first, I am delighted to announce that the under-26s completed a great win in Razzle Dazzle this week. It was a low-scoring affair, and I scored the only try of the game – an 80-metre effort that was probably the greatest of the season so far. For those who missed last week’s column, Razzle Dazzle is a game us St Helens forwards play in our final training session before a match. It’s basically walking touch and pass, but you can call ‘boost’ which allows you to sprint once a set. For my 80-metre screamer I called boost towards the end but it was basically a long walk!
It was a good win that we’re proud of and we’re now just one win behind the over-26s. It’s all good fun but the older lads weren’t too happy.
Training ground fun
I got some stick in training for last week’s article, a few of the lads gave me some grief. They were saying I’m just a stupid prop who shouldn’t be allowed to write columns. It was Jordan Turner mainly. I think it’s a bit of a jealousy thing with Jordan, I know deep down he really wants his own column, and I think we should probably start a petition for him to get one. He’s got some very interesting thoughts and views and I know he wants to share them with the Rugby League community.
The most tiring match of the year
We started off pretty well against the Dragons on Friday, we were 24-0 up and cruising, but credit to the Catalans, they were physical all game. They had a really good go at us and when it got to 24-12, their tails were up and the interval came at a good time for us. Unfortunately we lost three players at half-time and we had a couple of lads playing with knocks so we had to really dig in and it was pleasing that we managed to grind out a win considering we had just one sub for the rest of the game. It took a lot of effort, the Catalans were really up for the game, the meeting they had last week clearly worked, they looked fired up and they really took it to us. With just one sub left we tried to rotate the forwards the best we could, it was only Mose Masoe’s second game for us and he had to do a 30-minute stint in the second half. For a big lad to have done that, considering all the defending we had to do, it was massive for him. Credit must go to our backs, too, for carrying the ball a lot more than usual to lighten our workload. They really helped us out, it was a massive team effort.
Luke Walsh, Sia Soliola, and Jordan Turner all got injured. They’re key players for us, so, touch wood, it’s nothing too serious. We’ve got a good squad, though, and there are lads who haven’t been playing who are more than capable of coming in and doing the job if necessary.
The Dragons won’t go down
A lot of people are tipping Catalans to go down but I reckon they will come good. Considering how they played on Friday night, with the key personnel they’re missing, I think they’ll be fine. They haven’t had the best of starts but they’ve got the quality there. All the French lads in the pack are big and hard to handle, and on the back of that you’ve got Thomas Bosc, Leon Pryce, Morgan Escare, and Michael Oldfield – who took his two tries against us well. There’s a lot of talent in that team and they’re too good to go down. I thought Elliott Whitehead had a great game, too – he came up short of the line a few times, and really gave us boys some stick. He was a handful in attack.
If the experts are right and London and Catalan Dragons do go down I think it would be a real shame. London seem to be struggling at the moment, which is unfortunate with everything that has happened. But the Catalans story has been quite a success, they always get good fans over there and it’s a tough place to go to. It would be a shame if they go down but like I say I don’t think they will. In terms of expanding the game, we’re trying to make it more interesting by putting in this new structure, and unfortunately two teams have to go down, so it’s going to be a sacrifice one way or the other, but it’s early days yet, no-one can be written off at this stage.
The backbone of our squad
Paul Wellens made his 500th appearance and Jon Wilkin made his 350th against Catalans on Friday. Those two lads have been the backbone of St Helens for a lot of years, and to knock off those milestones is an amazing effort. Wello is someone all the boys look up to, he’s a great leader and a great captain. Whether or not he goes into coaching I’m not sure, but I think he would be great if he did. He’s the sort of person who gets respect from everyone, and he’s got a great rugby head. The same can be said about Wilko, he’s had a great start to the season and with him playing so many roles last year for the team, it shows how versatile he is. Wellens is the skipper and Wilkin plays that role when Paul isn’t on the park. We have a lot of leaders in the team, which is a good thing. Luke Walsh commands all our attacks, and in the pack we have James Roby who dictates how we go as forwards. Then you’ve got Jonny Lomax at full back – even though he’s so young he’s played over 100 Super League games. It’s easy to look at Jonny as one of the senior players because he’s played that many games and he’s such a quality player. He leads from the back.
This weekend we’ve got Wakefield and we see them as a genuine attacking threat. They’ve had a bit of a shaky start but they’ve brought in some great lads on loan, some other good signings, and the last few weeks they’ve shown they can be lethal with the ball. With Richard Agar they’ve got a quality coach and the boys who have played under him at St Helens always speak highly of him so he’s always going to have a good team. They’ve got some great strike players with the likes of Ali Lauititi and Talima Tautai, and they’re going to be a handful for us. It’s going to be a tough game but we have to make sure we prepare properly and not go into the game half-hearted. We have nine days between games and in this instance it’s nice to have those extra days to prepare and recover from a physical game against Catalan. The only downside to that is we only have five days until the game the week after, but if we prepare ourselves properly that shouldn’t be an issue.