It’s been a proud week at Saints as seven players made the Dream Team and four were named in the England squad for the forthcoming test series with New Zealand.
Six of the club’s contingent at the Dream Team were products of Saints Academy system whilst Wakefield’s Matty Ashurst also came through the ranks here.
And then in the England set-up both James Graham and Joe Greenwood graduated from our junior set up.
Our Academy’s Head Coach, Derek Traynor, talks about our Dream Team graduates, most of which also toured Australia with the club too.
“James Roby was signed before our Tours started,” he said. “He played in an under 17s Foundation Academy at the time and proved himself there. He signed professional at the end of that period and has never looked back since. He has become a player who is respected and looked up to by all the junior players at the club, and let’s be honest, the rest of the competition too.
“Jonny Lomax and Matty Ashurst went on the 2006 Tour to Australia. Jonny was an outstanding academy player who very quickly progressed to first team level. Throughout his time he progressed and improved and has matured into the leading player he is today.
“Matty was always a very naturally gifted player; in fact he ended up playing stand-off after ten minutes in the 2008 Academy Grand Final and did a great job! He, of course, played a number of games for the club but came through at a very competitive time to break through into the first team on a regular basis.
“At the time he came through we had perhaps one of the greatest teams to ever play at Saints but we are just as proud to see him honoured in this way and always think of him as one of ours.
“Tommy Makinson went on the 2009 Tour to Australia and was outstanding. He quickly established himself in the Academy when he signed at 16 from Wigan St Judes. He was at centre in those days but with his finishing skills and yardage carries it is great to see him become a full international as an outstanding winger.
“Mark Percival and Luke Thompson went on the 2011 Tour. Percy is perhaps one of the most naturally gifted players we have taken to Australia. He was an outstanding strike centre all through his time in the Academy and has carried that on into the first team and now on the international stage.
“Luke struggled with a back injury on the tour but not until he had showed the Aussies what he was about in the early games! He was powerful strong running second-rower row in the Academy although he did play in the middle on occasion. He has carried that on to become the international player he is today.
“Danny Richardson went on the 2013 Tour. He developed as the trip went on and in the last game he came up with a Man of the Match performance scoring three tries. The half back playing against him that day was actually Nathan Cleary who as himself gone onto great things! Danny was a very dominant half in the Academy and worked very hard on his game. He was always trying to improve his skills and tactical knowledge.”
He continued: “We are very proud of these lads and it shows how we are consistently producing players of a very high quality over a long period of time. All these players have one thing in common; a great desire to succeed and a great work ethic to improve themselves.
“An example was Tommy Makinson catching a train from his home to go and do extra sprint training with Neil Kilshaw whilst Luke Thompson had to be kicked out of the gym when we needed to lock up at night!
“Danny Richardson always responded to being told he needed to improve a skill by working on that skill until he had mastered it.
“These players deserve all the accolades they are receiving especially when you are aware of the extra time and effort they have put in to get to the level they are at.
“Knowing them as we do, we know they will be looking to move on and improve even more in the coming years.”