NATHAN Brown has given his thoughts ahead of Sunday’s crunch First Utility Super League clash with Castleford.
The Tigers come to Langtree Park looking to record their first win in St Helens for 23 years – but Saints were rocked this week by the news Jonny Lomax is out for the season.
That will see Paul Wellens return to the fullback spot as they aim to bounceback following defeat in Catalan.
“It was disappointing news about Jonny, for himself and the team, but disappointing for the game too,” Brown said. “No player works as hard as him and makes as many sacrifices. He loves playing for the club. He is one of the better players in the comp and exciting to watch too.
“He will get over it and come back better and stronger next year.
“The bonus for us is we have Paul Wellens and we know his strengths. He is a different type of player but some would argue having him on the field, with his leadership, would help us in other ways too.
“It makes sense to put him at fullback as we know he will do a good job. It is a demanding position and Wello knows how to position himself.
“We’re not expecting anyone else back at this stage. We brought a fair few back last weekend and they all will benefit from playing. Adam Swift isn’t far away as is Jon Wilkin. Because we brought so many back last week waiting a few more weeks might be beneficial anyway.
“Anthony Laffranchi is improving and I have to be honest and say five or six weeks ago we thought we might not see him again. He had nerve damage in his arm but things are starting to look a lot more positive. He played with it at first, and played well, but it got worse. He sees a specialist this week so we can get a better idea of when he will return.”
Sunday’s visitors Castleford are this season’s surprise package if you subscribe to the big four theory.
They lie fourth in Super League and are 80 minutes away from a Challenge Cup Final.
“It is close at the top and there are six teams that are close together,” Brown added. “Teams that will do well will have their better players on the park playing consistently. Leeds and Wigan have lost a couple in the last month whereas Warrington and Huddersfield are playing well as they get key personal on the field and that consistency.
“I always thought we would improve and thought Leeds would be the team to beat. I thought Warrington, Huddersfield and Wigan would do well and Cas have provided a surprise but they aren’t a surprise anymore. They are there for the long haul now.
“Catalan have won eight from nine and Hull FC and Hull KR would expect to be thereabouts.
“It will be a good game on Sunday. Castleford are playing well and their win over Wigan wasn’t a fluke. They did it earlier in the season. Last week they rested five players and perhaps decided that they got up for the cup game and targeted our fixture instead. Daryl Powell has done a tremendous job over there.”
Tickets for Sunday’s match remain on sale from the Ticket Office at Langtree Park, by calling 01744 455 052 or by logging on here.