Paul Wellens has entered some unfamiliar territory with St Helens this season, but is back on his favourite stage for Super League’s Magic Weekend at the Etihad Stadium.
Saints have been in uncharted waters in the bottom half of the table whilst their captain, after more than a decade as their established full-back, has been obliged to explore the mysteries of half-back.
Today, however, the lifelong Manchester City fan will be doing what he does best, leading from the back in a Saints team which has remembered how to win again.
The 33-20 victory at Leeds on Monday night has enabled them to head into this evening’s clash against Warrington with renewed confidence.
“It was a massive win for us,” said Wellens. “For the last six or seven weeks things haven’t been going right for us, but I always knew we were going to turn things round.”
Before that vital win at Headingley, Saints’ previous victory had been on 1 April. “Even when we were losing, the one thing that heartened me was the way these young lads have come through,” he said.
Players like Tom Makinson and Mark Percival in the back line and Alex Walmsley and Luke Thompson in the pack have all been promoted during the club’s injury crisis.
“They’ve all played far more games than they can have expected, but they’ve done really well,” Wellens said. “It’s great when someone like Alex can come from the Championship to Super League and do so well.”
It was the emergence of another young player that forced Wellens to rethink his role in the team earlier this season after injury. “I have a great relationship with [St Helens coach] Nathan Brown and when he told me he wanted to play Jonny Lomax at full-back, I had to agree with him.”
Not that the Saints coach wanted Wellens out of the team; Brown says he is the first man picked, albeit in unfamiliar positions. “I’ll slot in anywhere they need me,” Wellens said.
In total seven matches will be played at the Etihad for Magic Weekend. The other mouth-watering contest today is between Hull and Hull KR, while the pick of tomorrow’s programme pits leaders Wigan against a wounded Leeds, who have been knocked out of the Challenge Cup over the last fortnight. “They’ll be smarting. It’s probably the worst time to be playing Leeds,” said the Wigan coach, Shaun Wane.
He might have to move Sam Tomkins back to his original position of stand-off in the absence of first-choice half-backs Blake Green and Matty Smith.
Wane’s future is uncertain after he confirmed that he has had informal talks with the New Zealand Warriors. “I want to stay at Wigan. I love it here,” he said. “But my contract is up at the end of this season, nothing has been said. I have to look to my future.”