St Helens may have done the least transfer business ahead of the 2023 Super League season, but the quality of Paul Wellens’ squad at the Totally Wicked Stadium gives him plenty of selection headaches.
Nonetheless, as the Saints chase a fifth consecutive title, here is how we think they will line up.
Fullback: Jack Welsby
The Young Player of the Year for 2021 and 2022 finally looked set to settle at fullback last year after Lachlan Coote headed for Hull KR but he ended up spending most of last season in the halves to replace the injured Lewis Dodd. Despite this though, he will return to his favoured fullback role in 2023. Don’t be surprised to see him have to fill in at the halves at times in 2023 with Will Hopoate or Jon Bennison at fullback.
Wingers: Tommy Makinson and Jon Bennison
Tommy Makinson is one of Super League’s greatest ever wingers with the perfect blend of skill, strength and speed. A lot is made of his try scoring but he does the hard yards as well. Who will join him on the wings is perhaps most interesting. Jon Bennison was key to Grand Final glory in 2022 in his breakout season and has the number five shirt following the departure of Regan Grace but will have to keep ahead of new signing from Barrow Raiders Tee Ritson.
Centres: Will Hopoate and Mark Percival
Despite being signed to play centre in 2022, Will Hopoate rarely played there starting the season filling in on the wing for Regan Grace and then spending the rest of the time when he was fit at fullback. Konrad Hurrell was subsequently sensational in the role and it would be a shame to see him miss out. Mark Percival though as one of Super League’s best centres is all but nailed down on the left.
Halves: Jonny Lomax and Lewis Dodd
Jonny Lomax could be regarded as one of the most underrated players of the last decade despite being perhaps the league’s best or at least most consistent top performer since 2018. He will be hoping to have a trophy-winning season once again in 2023. Hopefully this time, he can do it with his halves partner, Lewis Dodd, who sadly suffered an ACL injury just eight games into the season. Dodd is one of brightest prospects in the English game, and despite his age, was one of the best performers in an already strong Saints side.
Props: Alex Walmsley and Matty Lees
Walmsley is the standout prop in the league, and after missing out on last year’s Grand Final win due to injury, the Dewsbury-born wrecking-ball will be hoping he can be involved in another successful season. Lees, however, was part of the squad that won at Old Trafford, he even managed to score the first try of the game. In fact, Walmsley’s absence may have been a blessing in disguise because it helped Lees take the step to the next level. Combined, the pair provide arguably the best front row in the league.
Hooker: James Roby
Is there a big enough word that describes James Roby? Even ‘legend’ does not do justice to the man. The hooker is entering his nineteenth season as a Saint and has made over 520 appearances for the club. He is chasing more silverware to add to his haul having backflipped on his decision to retire.
Second Rowers: Sione Mata’utia and Joe Batchelor
Sione Mata’utia was perhaps Super League’s best player at the start of 2022 and was well in the mix for the Man of Steel until he picked up an injury. He will be in tough competition with fellow Aussie, Curtis Sironen, for a place in the starting 13 next year. Batchelor, however, is a certain in Wellens’ side two incredible seasons in 2021 and 2022 that resulted in an England call-up for the World Cup.
Loose Forward: Morgan Knowles
Knowles has cemented himself as the premier loose-forward in Super League after the retirement of Sean O’Loughlin and is now an England regular after an immense past few seasons. The 26-year-old is without question the best loose forward in the league and will be hoping to lead his side to a fifth consecutive Super League title. He is now entering his prime years.
Interchanges: Joey Lussick, Agnatius Paasi, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Curtis Sironen
When you have someone of the calibre of Curtis Sironen on the bench you have a strong squad. A player with a wide skillset, he can have a big impact on the game as can substitute hooker Joey Lussick and impact forward Agnatius Paasi who is one of the best super subs in Super League. The ever reliable LMS will also be a good asset on the bench. It will be interesting to see if Konrad Hurrell is considered for a bench spot throughout the season when everyone is fit.