Batchelor faces make or break year

Joe Batchelor has made just eight first-team appearances for St Helens since making his debut against Hull FC in April 2019.

In 2020 he had the number 23 shirt, but in 2021 he has been promoted into the top 20, with the number 20 squad shirt.

And, at the age of 26, there is little doubt that the backrower, who was signed from York City Knights, will be hoping to break into the Saints’ matchday squad more regularly this season.

Having been born and bred in Wakefield, it’s perhaps a surprise that Batchelor first turned out on a professional Rugby League field for the Coventry Bears in 2016. But it was a move that almost never happened, after he had been on the books at Sheffield Eagles.

The brother of Wakefield Trinity star James, he first played under York coach James Ford in the Wakefield College team, before joining the Eagles’ Academy and then having a year in Australia.

“I’d spoken with Coventry about joining up with them in pre-season, but decided to return to Sheffield’s reserves,” Batchelor explains.

“But early in 2016 the team got pulled and then, after a few months, I decided I wanted to carry on playing.

“So, I rang the Coventry coach Tom Tsang who was down there and luckily there was still an opportunity for me. I grabbed it with both hands.”

Batchelor, who spent 2017 and 2018 at York, was signed by St Helens ahead of the 2019 season, which he could hardly believe at first.

“It was amazing, but surreal at the same time as not many people get the chance to play for St Helens,” says Batchelor.

“I’m forever grateful that I have been given the chance and I’m determined to make use of the opportunity.”

Before he stepped onto the field in the Red Vee, Batchelor was loaned back to the Knights as well as to Leigh in 2019, experiences which the backrower could not be more thankful for.

“York have played a huge part in my development,” he says.

“James Ford and the rest of the coaches helped me become a player who had the opportunity to go full time.

“Then they believed in me to bring me back on loan before I made my Saints debut.

“Leigh then really helped me by giving me playing time whilst I wasn’t playing at Saints.

“I learned a lot from the chances I had with them.”

Batchelor has played just eight times for Saints since joining them, but the rangy second-rower is determined to make it happen in Super League this year.

“I want to properly break into the Saints team and hopefully contribute to its future success,” he says.

“I saw what the team did last season and want to play a major part in that happening again, but I know I will have to bide my time, given the quality in the squad.”

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