St. Helens Tuesday, Sheffield Wednesday
Over the past few weeks injuries and suspensions have once again crept into the first team squad. It’s part and parcel of Rugby League that this happens and it’s up to the rugby club to be prepared for any eventuality.
After Ryan Morgan’s injury then Mark Percival’s suspension, Tommy Makinson was entrusted with the right centre spot – but this raised the question, why aren’t our reserves stepping up to the first team?
In the centres we currently have Matthew Fleming out on loan at Leigh. Fleming was handed a one year contract at the end of last season, and this loan move must be a way for Holbrook to look at Fleming playing regularly and see if he has what it takes to make it at Saints. Arguably Fleming hasn’t looked out of place in a Saints shirt – he’s done nothing wrong but dropping him in to a game here and there won’t allow him to settle. We also have Calvin Wellington, who was afforded a brief appearance at Magic Weekend in 2016 & Jake Spedding who has made a couple of appearances for the first team and has been sent out on loan this season too, to Sheffield Eagles, in order to give him game time. As Fleming has been moved out, then surely it is because the management team are confident that one of Spedding or Wellington can play first team if needed?
I know you can’t predict when an injury will occur but we don’t seem to have players ready to drop in to a specific position. If you look at our old foes over the hill, they have dropped their academy players into the first team and they haven’t looked out of place. It’s arguably because they’ve had to drop too many in that they currently find themselves outside the top 4. This is due to Wigan sending some of their players out on loan to the likes of Swinton – letting them play first team rugby against experienced pros who don’t give a jot about where you’ve come from or your potential. They’re playing for a win bonus and probably think ‘so what if you’re a Wigan winger – you’re in the way of a bit more cash this week’.
Saints announced a dual registration agreement with Sheffield Eagles in June but quite why it took so long to identify that the reserve structure currently isn’t working is baffling. I’d love for the reserves set up to be more uniform but with it as hit and miss as it currently is, earlier this year we played with 6 Hull KR players in the reserves, the club needed to act. At the time of writing we are awaiting news of if Danny Richardson has been confirmed in the starting 17, but if he is, then his time at scrum half for Sheffield last weekend will have been vital in his progress. The likes of Calvin Wellington, Jonah Cunningham etc. need to get out and play competitive, meaningful rugby. Until every club has a reserve team, with proper fixture list how do we challenge our players to step up, how do we expect them to reach the expectations of the first team?
Hopefully the agreement with Sheffield will allow our younger players, those just out of the usual 19 man squad and some seniors who need a reality check, to go to a good club where reputation doesn’t matter and get some challenging game time under their belts.
Foster The People
Since I last penned a blog, former Saints winger Jamie Foster retired from Rugby League due to both an ongoing hand injury & the desire to spend more time with his family. Foster burst onto the scene in 2010 and spent 3 seasons with the Saints before moving on to pastures new. He will be fondly remembered for his try at Headingley, when he juggled the ball behind his back and beat Zak Hardaker to put the ball down right in the corner. He was also a prolific goal kicker who sported almost as many haircuts as points he scored in the redvee.
Most of you will be aware that Foster opened a barbers shop that has sat on Blackbrook Road since 2012. It should be applauded that a young Rugby League player had the foresight to invest in a business, realising that his career wouldn’t go on forever and to ensure financial stability when that career ended. He obviously surrounded himself with the right people and a lot can be learned from his example. Hopefully other Rugby League players can take a leaf out of his book and get themselves into a position similar to Jamie’s – maybe even take time to speak to him and get some advice on investing. You can’t help but think he’d be a good person to have on board if a players union was supported.
Enjoy your retirement Jamie.