Paul Wellens reveals failed interview to be St Helens coach

Saturday is not just the World Club Challenge but it is also Paul Wellens first competitive game in charge of St Helens, his boyhood club and a club he is already a legend of.

Speaking to the Out of your League podcast, Wellens spoke about his journey to this point:

“I knew at the back end of my playing career that I wanted to coach but then also I had to take a step back and realise the process, as you do as a player.

“You don’t go from playing Blackbrook under 16s to Saints’ first team. You have to go through the academy and the system, win and lose, go through different experiences, fail at times, then go into the reserves and suffer the same things and then the first team.

“Those early years working with our academy was invaluable to me in terms of getting hours on the field delivering.

“You have the rugby knowledge but it’s a completely different thing coaching and making sure that the knowledge you’re passing on to those young players, that they’re actually understanding it.

“I didn’t just do that with rugby, I enrolled on a course called the UK Sports Aspire programme which was 22 coaches going on eight residentials over two years and it was nothing to do with rugby league. It was coaches predominantly from Olympic sports but I learnt so much just from coaching in itself.”

He also spoke about wanting the Saints job but not because he was a former player but because he was good enough:

“I didn’t want to get the St Helens’ coaching job based on the fact that I was a player there, because it’s just not good enough.

“When I spoke to Eamon and Mike after it was known Kristian was going back, I made it clear to them they needed to pick the best person for the job. I was adamant that they went through the same process and if it wasn’t me than that’s fine but thankfully they saw something in me to give me this opportunity.

“There was talk during Kristian’s last year that he was going to move on, but I thought that if he stayed I was more than happy to stay as his assistant for that period of time. But I was also thinking that if does decide to move on, that I felt ready to make that step up.”

He also revealed that he previously interviewed for the job when Holbrook left the club:

“People might not know this but I actually interviewed for the job when Justin did leave. Looking back now I’m so glad I didn’t actually get the job at that point, I’m so glad that Kristian came in and I got to work with him for three years and learn so much more with him.

“I reckon now, hand on heart, if I’d have got it at that time after Justin then it would have been too soon.”

He also explained why he didn’t get the job back in 2020: “I just feel that Kristian was the man that they wanted, he had more experience as a head coach than I had and I feel they just went for the man that they thought was best for the job. I’m so glad they made that decision because I got to work with him for three years.”

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