NextGen: Noah Stephens aiming to become next Liverpudlian to make mark on St Helens

Ross Heppenstall
Noah Stephens St Helens

Photo courtesy of Bernard Platt and St Helens RFC

St Helens are not only committed to producing homegrown talent ready for the first team; the club’s entire philosophy is founded on it.

Saints’ nine Grand Final wins is a Super League record and many of their most influential players have come through their vaunted youth ranks.

Take Keiron Cunningham, whose legendary exploits in the Red V saw him immortalised in a bronze statue outside the Totally Wicked Stadium.

Consider the incredible 20-year career of James Roby, the longevity of Jonny Lomax and Tommy Makinson, and the emergence of Jack Welsby, now rated as one of the best players in the world.

The good news for St Helens supporters is that more talent is coming through the club’s famous academy and Noah Stephens appears ripe for a senior debut sooner rather than later.

Here, Love Rugby League charts the development of the highly-rated 19-year-old prop forward..


Stephens hails from Crosby, just north of Liverpool, and attended St Mary’s College, a fee-paying school considered one of the best in the north-west of England.

Significantly, his sporting talent was not restricted to rugby league.

Stephens played rugby union for St Mary’s and captained the first team, as his dad had done years before him.

He has also spent time at Sale Sharks before opting for rugby league and St Helens.

Saints academy coach Derek Traynor, who first began working for the club as a volunteer in 1995, tells Love Rugby League: “Noah played rugby union to a high standard.

“But thankfully when it came to committing to us at academy level he chose rugby league and St Helens, which ended his time playing any other sports.”

Having shone for amateur club Pilkington Recs, Stephens joined Saints at scholarship level aged 15 and played for the Under-16s before graduating into the academy.

In the Under-18s, he displayed his rich potential with a number of barnstorming displays, scoring six tries in last year’s title-winning campaign.

He was also selected for the Lancashire Academy Origin side before being rewarded with a full-time deal to join Paul Wellens’ senior squad at the end of last year.

Stephens penned a two-year deal with a third-year option in the club’s favour.

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Style of play – ‘Causing havoc’

Noah Stephens St Helens
Photo courtesy of Bernard Platt and St Helens RFC

Stephens’ physicality and robustness when playing for Pilkington Recs was spotted by a St Helens scout and he was signed onto the club’s scholarship system.

Traynor adds: “Noah was playing for Pilks in division three or four and was just causing havoc.

“I think one of the coaches at Pilks actually tipped us off about him and we went down to watch him play.

“Noah was always a big, thick-set lad and, after we signed him on scholarship, he carried on playing for his amateur club and training with us.

“Noah did two years on scholarship, played some games and was absolutely outstanding to be honest – very close to being Player of the Season.

“Then we signed him onto a part-time professional contract into the academy when he was 16.

“Noah then did two years in the academy, up to the age of 18, and then went full-time with the first team.

“How would I describe Noah’s progress? Rapid.

“His first year in scholarship was challenging because he played numerous sports at his school in Crosby and there was a lot expected of him.

“He had a lot going on in his life with his various sporting commitments and his academic studies.

“He did miss quite a bit of rugby during his first year here at Saints, but he’s a smart lad and really developed very quickly.

“He took things on board and then put them into practice in game situations.”

Liverpudlians are a rarity in rugby league but Maghull’s finest – Saints legend James Graham – was one of the best players of his generation.

Traynor is reluctant to compare the two, saying: “Jammer was obviously supremely talented as well as being a big lad and an enforcer-type character.

“Noah’s biggest strength is his leg speed and the power in his carries, plus he has got a good engine now as well.

“He’s built up his endurance and stamina, so he’s more of a big ball-career, a bit like Agnatius Paasi.

“Noah’s a smart lad and fairly quiet, but he’s also humorous once you get to know him. He’s a great kid.”

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Super League debut edging closer

Noah Stephens Swinton Lions
Photo courtesy of Swinton Lions

Traynor has helped to carefully nurture Stephens since he joined St Helens and now a senior bow is drawing ever closer for the teenager.

But he also stressed there are areas for improvement to go alongside his undoubted natural ability.

Stephens completed his A-Levels last year and could study for a degree on a part-time basis at some point.

For now, though, he is focused solely on being a fully-fledged first team squad member.

Traynor says: “Noah’s very quick for a big lad and, like I say, his ball carries are a big part of his game.

“He’s very smart, dedicated and he really wants to learn.

“I know that Noah has learned a lot from working with Alex Walmsley during his time training with the first team.

“This is not a weakness, but I would say an area for Noah to work on is playing at the speed of the first team and getting the game sense of playing and making decisions at that intensity.

Super League is so quick, so it’s about growing accustomed to that level.

“Noah has played for the reserves at Saints and has been out on dual-registration at Swinton Lions in the Championship, making two appearances.

“Now it’s just a case of waiting patiently for his first team debut, but it’s not just Noah.

“There are some potential first team players of a really high standard in the system at the moment.

“Whether they all go on and reach that potential remains to be seen, But I believe this current crop of young players is as good as we’ve ever had.”

Player profile

Name: Noah Stephens

Date of birth: 03/10/2004

Position: Prop forward

Senior debut: N/A

Honours: Lancashire Academy

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