Saints in the market to replace Naiqama and Bentley

The news that Kevin Naiqama will return home for personal reasons at the end of the season immediately set the cogs whirring about who will replace him at St Helens.

Naiqama has played at centre for three seasons at the Lancashire club, with Woolf waxing lyrical about the impact that the Fijian has had at Saints.

“He’s a great bloke as everyone knows, he carries himself extremely well and he’s really well respected off the field because of the person he is and on the field too because of how he plays,” Woolf said.

“I’m really proud of both Kev and his wife Lily, when you look at their personal circumstances – being a long way away from family support and to do that on their own – I’m really surprised that Kev hasn’t knocked on my door and said he was going home earlier.

“I’m also really proud of how our playing group have got around Kev and Lily and help them get through a really tough period.”

Woolf did confirm that Saints are in the market for a new outside back as well as a back-rower – to replace the outgoing James Bentley – but wanted to ensure that Saints are still promoting talent from within.

“We’ve had a great success of bringing kids through our academy, but when we bring in people from outside it’s really important that we bring in people like Kev – terrific characters and those that bring leadership and have a really good work ethic.

“It’s harder if you’re looking at overseas players to get the right players to come over – there are a lot of reasons for that, the COVID situation makes the UK less attractive, and the salary cap gap is a really big one as it’s about a third of what the NRL is.

“There are a lot of little obstacles; we don’t want to bring players in that don’t really add to our team, but we are in the market and I would like to think in the next few weeks we will have news for everyone.

Woolf added: “We’ve lost a number of players and while we are going to promote within we do also need to find ways to strengthen our squad overall.

“It’s a fine balance of creating opportunities and making sure we’re not blocking opportunities for Super League players of the future – your Jack Welsby’s etc.

“But at the same time, we are looking at where we can bring in experience and class that helps us be on the same level or better next year – we need to bring in a back-rower and outside back.”

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