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How a St Helens team would line up if they had kept hold of academy/reserve-trained players

St Helens have had one of the strongest academies for decades, and their ability to hold onto the talent they produce has been a huge part of their success.

When you look through Saints’ squad, it is littered with homegrown talent.

However, this team will include former academy/reserve players who no longer play for Saints.

1. Lee Gaskell 

Although primarily a halfback, Gaskell has experience of playing at fullback. His kicking game and intelligence helped him break into the Saints first team a decade ago, where he stayed until 2013. However, after being unable to hold down a first team spot, he signed for Bradford and then Huddersfield in 2017, where he remains today.

2. Adam Swift

Adam Swift has an impressive try scoring record for Saints, despite being loaned out 5 times during his 7-year spell at the club. He eventually made the permanent move to Hull F.C in 2020, where he has returned to the level we saw earlier on in his career. He has already scored 7 tries this season, and continues to show why he deserves to play regular Super League rugby.

3. Matty Costello 

Costello’s improvements were clear each time he was given the chance to play for the first team. The squad depth and competitiveness at Saints saw him leave to try and achieve more regular game time. At Salford he has been unable to achieve that, but at just 23 years of age, it’s a matter of time before he becomes a regular Super League player.

4. Gary Wheeler

The highlight of Wheeler’s Saints career was undoubtedly walking out at Old Trafford in 2011. He also earned a senior England call up in 2013, but never made an appearance. After leaving Saints for Warrington in 2015, he was unable to nail down a first team spot, and moved to Toronto Wolfpack in 2017 where he remained until last year.

5. Jack Owens

Owens became a regular starter for Saints for a short period under Kieron Cunningham, but after the signing of Ben Barba he lost his spot in the side. He moved onto Leigh Centurions and then Widnes Vikings. 

6. Jamie Ellis

Ellis played just a handful of times for Saints’ first team, and has gone on to play for a further five Super League clubs. He left Saints for Leigh in 2011 due to frustrations over a lack of playing time. Since returning to Super League in 2018, he has so far seemed unable to settle in at any one club.

7. Danny Richardson

Richardson fast became one of Super League’s most exciting players after becoming a regular starter for Saints in 2018. Just 21 years old at the time, he was a key component of the side that earned Saints a League Leaders’ Shield. Despite his impressive performances, he fell out of favour at Saints and moved to Castleford for regular matches.

8. Luke Thompson 

The level that Thompson reached while playing for Saints is something that very few forwards ever achieve. He was brilliant in every game he played for Saints and earned a Harry Sunderland Trophy in the 2019 Grand Final victory. He left the club for Canterbury Bulldogs midway through last season.

9. Matty Fozard

Becoming the main hooker at Saints has been impossible in the last decade with the presence of James Roby, and so many academy hookers move on quickly after reaching the first team. Fozard was no different, and moved on from Saints after just one appearance. He played almost 100 games for Sheffield before moving to London in 2019.

10. Andre Savelio

Savelio came through the ranks at Saints as a utility forward. He has played prop, second row and loose-forward but seems to have settled at second row. He played fairly regularly for Saints before moving to Warrington in 2017 where he had an impressive season. Savelio is now playing for Hull FC and is playing the best rugby of his career.

11. Joe Greenwood

Greenwood spent six years with the Saints first team where he won Super League in 2014. He then moved to the Gold Coast Titans and then Wigan, where he played against St Helens in the 2020 Grand Final.

12. Matty Ashurst 

Ashurst made 60 appearances for Saints before moving on. The second-rower was able to play regularly after injuries that Saints suffered in the forwards during his time at the club, but Ashurst eventually made the decision to leave for Salford ahead of the 2012 season, and then onto Wakefield where he has played over 130 games.

13. Josh Jones

Jones started his career at centre, starring in Saints’ 2014 Grand Final victory in the position. He left the following year hoping to have a career in Rugby Union, but it lasted just one year and he returned to League. At Salford, he was converted into a second row, and after a phenomenal 2019, was picked up by Hull FC before being signed by Huddersfield ahead of the 2021 season.

14. Olly Davies

Davies was only able to earn two St Helens first team appearances, and so left the club at just 20 years of age. The second-rower joined Swinton before settling at Sheffield Eagles. He has now made 70 appearances for the Eagles.

15. Jack Ashworth 

Ashworth is another second-rower who failed to break into the Saints side on a regular basis and so has moved on. He has looked good when selected, and even played in the 2019 Grand Final. In 2021 though, Ashworth joined the Huddersfield Giants and will be looking to prove that he is deserving of a regular spot.

16. Jake Spedding

Spedding joined the St Helens setup at 15, where he stayed until he was 21. He spent much of the 2017 and 2018 seasons on loan at Sheffield, then signed for Barrow and then Featherstone. Spedding currently wears the number 3 shirt for Widnes.

17. Greg Richards

Richards played in the 2014 Grand Final victory, and played 70 games for St Helens. The powerful prop spent six years with the club before moving on. He made 30 appearances for Leigh and has since played another 30 for London since joining in 2019. 

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