St Helens have relied successfully on their novices this season but they go into the Super League play-offs today needing something special from their two blue-chip players.
The two Jameses – Roby and Graham – were Saints' representatives in the Super League Dream Team this week. "I wish I could have got a bet on the pair of them," said their coach, Royce Simmons ahead of the game at Wigan this afternoon.
Simmons is fascinated by the way the players, although equally pre-eminent in their positions, are diametric opposites in temperament and approach. "You've got one bloke who gets himself so wound up and one who's just completely relaxed," he said. "The different ways they are, though, seem to work for them."
The intense character is England prop and captain James Graham, who is coming to the end of his time at Saints, having signed for Canterbury Bulldogs in next season's NRL.
"He plays on emotion and he wears his heart on his sleeve," said Simmons, who had to reprimand him two weeks ago for exploding with anger, kicking the ball away and getting sin-binned. "But you wouldn't want to take that out of him," added his coach, who knows that his impending departure could make him more feisty than ever in the play-offs.
Roby, however, will have the demeanour of a man out for an afternoon stroll. England's first-choice hooker for the last three years, he has only started games regularly for Saints since the retirement of Keiron Cunningham at the end of last season.
He has made that transition seamlessly. Until Simmons gave him a rest at Harlequins last weekend, he had started every match. It is a safe bet that he will be back in action at the DW Stadium, along with other important players like Leon Pryce, Tony Puletua and Francis Meli.
If any or all of them were missing, however, Saints would simply shrug their shoulders and carry on, as they have had to do so often this season.
At The Stoop last weekend, 15 of their 18-man squad were products of their academy system. Jonny Lomax and Jamie Foster might have been the stand-outs, but none of the reserves pressed into service by injuries let Saints down. Simmons has instilled a team spirit that goes beyond the precise make-up of the side, and Saints will need to draw upon that today.
Wigan have not been at their best since winning the Challenge Cup at Wembley, but he is not counting on any advantage from that. "I think they will have got that out of their systems. It will be back to business as usual."Reuse content