“Alex Walmsley now the best in Super League” – Garry Schofield

Alex Walmsley says he wants to extend his contract at St Helens – and that will come as music to the ears of the Saints supporters.

It’s not often I bang the drum for forwards over halfbacks, but I believe Alex is the best player in Super League at the moment.

And I’d go as far as to say he’s the best prop in the world, so it’s no surprise that NRL clubs are having a good look.

He’s been linked with Canterbury Bulldogs, who already have his old Saints team-mate Luke Thompson, of course.

But Alex was quick to come out and quash the rumours, saying: “I’m very happy at Saints and have two and a half years left on my contract.

“I’m looking to see those years out and hopefully extend. I am happy with what we are aiming to achieve.”

Alex and I go back a long way, because I worked with him when I was coaching Yorkshire Under-19s and he was at Dewsbury Celtic, and it was clear he was a real talent.

Ten years ago, I took him on tour to South Africa when I was in charge of the BARLA Young Lions side, and he was excellent.

It wasn’t just his performances out on the pitch that made him stand out, but the way he conducted himself off it and his hard work and hunger to learn in training.

When we returned, I recommended him to Leeds, Castleford and Hull, but not one of them took a punt on him.

I’m convinced they took the view that, having not gone through the Scholarship and Academy system at any club, he hadn’t been coached and developed to Super League requirements.

As far as I’m concerned, Alex is the world-class player he is now because he didn’t go through that Scholarship and Academy system.

He’s a bit if a throwback, a front rower who is great with ball in hand and willing to express himself and do something off the cuff.

That flair and creativity would have been slowly but surely drained out of him by the monotonous ‘processes’ that some coaches love to talk about.

Instead Alex, who is an engaging and intelligent bloke, continued with his university studies at Leeds Met and continued playing for Dewsbury Celtic.

Having been one of the best on the South Africa tour, he won the National Conference League Player of the Year award in 2011.

The following year, John Kear took him to Batley, and, after showing what he was about, he was snapped up by Saints.

He had a spell back at Mount Pleasant on dual-registration, allowing him to develop further, and then he established himself in Super League.

Now he has won two Grand Finals and played in a Challenge Cup Final, earned a place in the Super League Dream Team, represented England in a World Cup Final and toured with Great Britain.

And even though he is 30, he is still improving, and I think the presence of James Graham in the Saints dressing room will help Alex further.

We all know what an outstanding player Jammer is, and in the short time he’s been back in a Saints shirt, he has underlined that.

Having been in such a professional competition as the NRL, he will have picked up some very good habits, not just out there on the turf but in terms of those little things he does off it.

While they may be only little things, they add that small percentage which makes a very good player even better, and both Saints and Alex will benefit.

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