The Garry Schofield Column: Smart recent retentions by St Helens and Warrington Wolves

SO Jonny Lomax and Joe Philbin will be at St Helens and Warrington respectively until at least 2026, and congratulations to the pair of them on securing contract extensions.

It’s easy to see why Saints and the Wire wanted to keep them on board, and why Jonny has been made skipper in succession to the retired James Roby.

He will turn 36 towards the end of the 2026 season, and while he’s had a few injuries over the years, I reckon there is still enough left in the tank to keep him going until then.

He and Saints will know how to manage training and his lifestyle in order to keep him firing on all cylinders come matches.

And not only is he a very good player, still comfortably one of the top halfbacks in Supper League, he also has that experience and knowledge of the club that money can’t buy.

I read that Jonny (below) has been involved with Saints since he was eleven, he has made more than 320 appearances, and he’s been central to most of their superb successes since he made his first-team debut in 2009.

He has St Helens in his blood, he will be a great mentor for younger players there, and he will have the respect of his teammates, making him the ideal choice to replace Roby, who was such a warrior of a player.

Saints have sensibly added James to their coaching staff, and in Paul Wellens, James and Jonny, they have a trio who know exactly what the club is all about and what has made them so consistently good over the years.

Of course their vice-like grip on the Super League title has finally been broken by Wigan, who are going about their business very impressively under the calm and convincing Matty Peet.

Will Wigan make it two in a row, can Saints re-assert their supremacy, or could there a name other than either of those two on the trophy for the first time since Leeds lifted in back in 2017, when Brian McDermott was still at the helm?

It’s one of the big questions as the new season looms and it’s going to be fascinating to find out and to be able to talk about what’s going on out on the grass rather than those IMG ratings.

Of course Warrington, whose last Grand Final was in 2018, when Steve Price was coach and they lost to Wigan, would dearly love to be a contender again.

They have high hopes of Sam Burgess, and his ability to get more out of players who failed to perform well enough for Daryl Powell.

I actually think Philbin (below) did produce the goods more often than not, and he’s a player I’ve always liked.

He never takes the soft option, and he’s willing to put himself on the line, if anything, a little too committed for his own good at times.

I think he’s an example that others in primrose and blue need to follow, and quotes from players saying that they are taking things that Sam says on board interested me.

Surely that’s a given with any coach – were they not doing that with Steve Price and Daryl Powell?

I think Warrington need to develop a tougher mentality throughout the squad, and as I’ve said previously, from the amount of time he spent in the NRL, Sam will certainly have that.

It’s also going to be very interesting to see how the season pans out at the Halliwell Jones.