ST HELENS coach Paul Wellens has paid tribute to his Chairman Eamonn McManus, following his club’s success last week in winning the World Club Challenge by defeating Penrith Panthers.
After the game, McManus, clearly thrilled with the result, joined the players as they celebrated the victory on the field and Wellens was delighted that he was on hand to share in the triumph.
“I couldn’t speak highly enough of Eamonn,” said Wellens.
“His dedication and commitment to this club over more than 20 years is incredible. He has been a huge Saints fan since being a young boy.
“When he came to the club around the year 2000, he had a vision of where he wanted the club to go. There had been a lot of talk around that time of us getting a new stadium and Eamonn worked tirelessly for several years to bring that to fruition and he achieved that in 2012.
“Eamonn has been the catalyst for putting this club in such a strong position. He has dedicated himself to improving the club and improving the individuals within the club.
“His reaction after the game just shows everyone what this club winning that game means to him. For us as a playing group and for me as a coach, to see Eamonn so delighted after his dedication to this club for such a long time is equally important for us.”
Many people noted that the Australians had an air of superiority towards the British game, but were they any less arrogant after losing the World Club Challenge at home?
“I did say to the group when we were in Australia that winning the game was important and was what we were there for, but we also had motivation around changing opinions about us as a club, Super League as a competition and British Rugby League in general,” said Wellens.
“I would like to think that a lot of people in Australia now think very differently about our game compared to a few weeks ago.
“It was a wonderful experience. Wherever we stayed, whether at Manly or Homebush, we were treated so well by the hotels we stayed in and everybody involved. They did their best to look after us and make us feel welcome. And at this moment in time I would bite your hand off to have the opportunity of having that experience again.”
And Wellens, who saw his team open its Super League account with a 24-6 victory at Castleford on Sunday, is confident that Saints will be able to retain the majority of their stars, despite the interest generated in the NRL by Jack Welsby and other members of the Saints squad.
“Rugby League’s a game where things can change down the track and I don’t know the individual ambitions of every single player in our squad,” said Wellens.
“But what I do know, to a man, is that they’re all extremely happy playing for St Helens, and they’re all looking forward to doing well again in 2023.”
Welsby, who is contracted to Saints until the end of 2025, said of a potential move: “It is not something I have given much thought to.
“The success that we have had at St Helens is all I have really thought about.
“We have gone far, and we want to continue and make it five (Super League titles) this year. I just want to get on with it, play rugby and see what happens.
“For now I am focused on playing with St Helens and winning more trophies.”