If anyone is in a position to comment on Theo Fage’ abilities, it’s Sean Long.
The legendary Saints halfback has coached the Frenchman since he was 16, initially at Salford and now at his old stomping ground.
Fages has been given the nod to start over Danny Richardson at the start of this season, having played predominantly from the bench in 2018.
He took his opportunity with both hands in the club’s victory over Wigan on Thursday, playing a key role both with and without the ball as Justin Holbrook’s side defeated their bitter rivals 22-12.
Fages was named man of the match following the game, having helped create tries but also after he up in defence. He was targeted by Wigan’s strongest strike forward, Joe Greenwood, but came up trumps despite the obvious size difference.
For Long, he believes the performance epitomised the character of the 24-year-old, who has never been one to shy away from a challenge.
“He’s done it the hard way has Theo,” Long said.
“He came over to England and didn’t speak a word of English. You can see the personality traits. He didn’t know anyone or speak a word of the language but he just cracked on. He’s a tough little rooster.
“His defence is really good, a nice short-kicking and he gets the boys around the park well now.
“He’ll do anything you tell him, he just cracks on and does it. He learns quick and he’s willing to learn, that’s why he’ll keep getting better. You haven’t seen the best of Theo.
“He’s willing to put his body on the line. The toughest thing for the halfback is providing space for the people out wide. He’s got to take the ball right into the line and in doing so he gets clobbered. For the Regan Grace try he dug right into the line and got absolutely smoked, but what comes off the back of that is Regan scoring in the corner. People don’t see that.”
Long believes Fages will only get better too, while hesitant to draw comparisons to other great Saints halfbacks of the past, he believes he’s got the potential to go right to the top.
“You forget he’s already played around 150 games at 24.
“But as he gets older his management will get better. He’ll learn how to build pressure, when to do certain things, a bit like how Cootey does it now. Lachlan is dead calm and his game management is spot on, that’s the next step for Theo, but he’ll get there because he sits down, watches his videos and takes everything on board. He’s great to coach.
“I don’t like comparing players. Danny Richardson was getting compared to me and it’s hard. I was talking to Paul Wellens about this, we were fortunate because we were different and didn’t get compared to anyone, there was nobody comparing me to Bobbie Goulding, Tommy Martyn or even Alex Murphy. Willo didn’t get that either because he was a different breed of fullback.
“As soon as you start comparing current players to ex-greats it can put too much pressure on.
“But with Theo, he’s only going to get better.”