AS Saints prepare for their second friendly of the season and the Betfred Super League opener with Leeds, Jon Wilkin has been outlining his thoughts on what we can expect from this year’s squad.
Five new signings and seven promotions from the Academy have given Keiron Cunningham’s side a new look – and it’s a balance the club captain is happy with.
“We’ve been working hard in pre-season to improve on the areas we know we can get better in,” he said. “We were disappointing in the Cup last season and unlucky in the playoffs but we know the challenge is to be better.
“We want a good run in the Cup and be up there in the playoffs. That comes through paying attention to detail in training.
“We started terribly last year and then got better. Ourselves and Wigan were the form sides going into the final stages but we didn’t make it to the Grand Final. We know what we have to do and I have been encouraged by the guys that have been brought in.”
Wilkin says Saints biggest problem in 2016 was consistency and that is something they have to put right this time round.
He continued: “If you look at what other people think of us, they would say we were inconsistent. We could blow a team away one week and then lose by 30 the next. We need to be more consistent and not have such a range in our performances.
“There’s no doubt the squad is stronger than this time last year, but we know that injuries, confidence and momentum will play a part. I am looking forward to us translating our confidence into the new season.
“We have recruited experienced players and will get consistency as a result. That will come through the spine of the team. Under a consistent performance regime we will get better – and that goes for the younger players too.
“We have made some shrewd signings and Tommy Lee for instance has been exceptional in pre-season. We are stronger in the middle of the field too and I am excited to see how we go.
“The signings are also good communicators and that helps bring things together on the field. When I came through here the skilful players, the world class players – the likes of Sean Long, Scully, KC and Paul Wellens were the best talkers too.
“It is an underrated and not obvious facet to have but it is important and it will make a big difference for us.
“The ability to communicate and organise is priceless and we are in a better position than this time last year.”
Wilkin signed a two-year contract at the end of last season and will be going into his 15th season as a Saint.
“I am at the point of my career where I have learnt a lot about the game and understand it. I probably understand the intricate details of the game but, of course, my body isn’t what it was of five years ago.
“My job is simple; it is to bring composure, quality and execution to the side and control my competitive side.
“I’m also tasked with bringing through the next leaders at the club. I am only in custody of the captaincy for a short period of time and the next two years is about developing what is underneath me.
“I think our recruitment has been excellent and KC has brought in the players he thinks we need. I think you will see a different Saints this year.
“Injuries play a part of course but we have a great chance of playing exciting rugby and doing the tough bits as well.”
Tickets for the home opener with Leeds on Thursday February 9, and this Sunday’s friendly, are now on sale from the Ticket Office, online and via 01744 455 052.