Matty Lees is looking to prove that no Alex Walmsley means no problem as St Helens prepare to challenge for a fourth consecutive Super League crown.
Walmsley has been a pillar of Saints’ dominance in recent years, but a foot injury means he will play no part in this week’s Grand Final.
Lees is eight years Walmsley’s junior at 24, although he has plenty of his own big-match pedigree, having played in the previous two Grand Final wins – off the bench in 2020, then as a starter in 2021 – as well as last year’s Challenge Cup final victory.
And he showed with a powerful performance in last week’s semi-final success over Salford Red Devils that he is capable of being the leader of the pack.
“I’ve really enjoyed playing big minutes and having a leading role in the middle pack,” said Lees, who made his England debut earlier this year and is a strong contender to take Walmsley’s place in that team as well.
“It’s tough losing big Al, he’s a massive player for us, but we’ve got Iggy (Agnatius Paasi) and Morgs (Morgan Knowles) to the side of me and we’re all experienced.”
Saints are on the cusp of establishing a dominance completely unprecedented in the Super League era as they vie for four league titles in a row.
But Lees says these occasions are never taken for granted and that this Grand Final appearance has been hard-earned.
“It’s a really special moment, especially in my career; you don’t come across them too often,” said Lees.
“There’s a lot of games that you’ve got to get through and I think we’ve done really well this year, just knocking them off one by one.
“Our main aim was winning the League Leaders’ Shield first of all. We got that and hopefully now we can kick on and win the Grand Final.”
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