Woolf gives update on out-of-contract quartet and their futures at St Helens

It’s been well documented that Kevin Naiqama, Theo Fages, James Bentley and Lachlan Coote are all out of contract at the end of 2021, but Kristian Woolf is still determined to keep all four at the Totally Wicked Stadium.

‘We’ve been in discussions with all of our players and all of our squad knows where they sit in the club’s point of view in terms of whether we’d like them to stay here next year or whether there’s not a spot here,” Woolf stated.

“There’s a lot of complexities around the salary cap and around your players from Australia and New Zealand and the difficult circumstances they’ve been in in the last 12-18 months.

“Those discussions are ongoing, but I’ve made it really clear that those guys that are off contract, Kev Naqiama, Lachlan Coote, Theo Fages and James Bentley, that we’d love all them to stay and they know that.

“Over the coming weeks they’ve got decisions to make whether they can stay in terms of being away from home or where we can fit them in to the salary cap too.

“There’s a lot to it and it will all become clearer in the next few weeks.”

St Helens go up against Warrington this week, with Wolves’ halfback Gareth Widdop rejuvenating himself in 2021,  but the St Helens boss always knew he would show Super League what he can do.

“He’s a good player, he was always going to come good at some stage,” Woolf said.

“He was obviously a little bit quiet last year and perhaps copped unnecessary criticism, but he’s a class player and we can’t just solely focus on Gareth Widdop either because they’ve got a lot of threats right across the park.

“We’ve got to ensure we are right on the mark with how we defend, but we know if we do our jobs then it’ll always be difficult for others to breach our defence.”

Woolf was full of praise for Morgan Knowles, who didn’t have the best preparation coming into the 2021 season.

“He’s been really impressive; what we’ve got to take into context is he didn’t really have a pre-season, instead he went back into surgery after having had surgery eight-nine weeks prior.

“He missed all the work we did, but he’s come straight back in and I don’t think I’d be exaggerating if i said he’s been one of our best players of the past few weeks and he’s only going to get better.”

One player who missed out on the Challenge Cup final in 2019 was Matty Lees, but he could return just in time for the showpiece event this season, Woolf confirmed.

“I’d hope and expect he will be back for Wembley this year and be back a few games before too that so he can get some confidence back in the weeks running up to it.

“I know that like very player he wants to be in the big games and he’s one of those players we want in those big games too.”

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