‘This isn’t the end’: Paul Wellens proud of St Helens’ season after play-off exit

FOUR-TIME champions St Helens reached the end of the road on their ‘drive for five’ in Perpignan on Friday night, but coach Paul Wellens insists that next season will see the start of a new era at the Totally Wicked Stadium.

Wellens was disappointed with the 12-6 semi-final defeat to Catalans Dragons, which ended his side’s record run of four successive Grand Final victories, but he insists it was “only the beginning” of a period of positive change at the club.

“It isn’t the end of anything,” he told League Express.

“We are rightly proud of what we have achieved; we have won four in a row and we are the current World Club Champions.

“That is an incredible platform to build from and even though we haven’t ended this season as we would have liked, we can take an incredible amount of pride and confidence in how we have performed this season in the face of so many challenges.

“It’s been a challenging year for us all. The trip to Penrith at the start of the year was absolutely wonderful and a phenomenal achievement and since then we have had other challenges.

“Since the disappointment of getting knocked out of the Challenge Cup, we’ve won ten straight and that is off the back of a group which sticks together in tough times.”

Wellens admits that the retirements of club legend James Roby and long-serving forward Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook will create a “natural break” for his team, but he was excited at the prospect of change and development ahead.

He added: “We’re disappointed that we didn’t get the result that we wanted on Friday night but on the flip-side to that, if you look at the team, their effort and how hard they made Catalans work to finally get the result, they are all the ingredients that have made this team a champion team for the last four years.

“There’s a lot to like in terms of our performance. It’s a tough one to take for sure, but we will be better for it.”

Wellens applauded his players from the pitch in Perpignan and also thanked the 600-or-so Saints supporters in the crowd at Stade Gilbert Brutus.

He added: “I’m a St Helens boy so to get the opportunity to coach your hometown club is massive. But there was another reason why I wanted the job. It was to work with this group of players.

“I’d been around for a number of years as an assistant, so I know them well and you saw against Catalans how driven they are, how much they care and how much they want to represent this club and this town in the right way.

“Our supporters have been incredible throughout the year. They have been right behind us, and right behind me, from day one and I’m so grateful for that.”