SL Preview: It’s the year of the Saint

St Helens seem to be everyone’s team to beat this year while Ben Barba is the favourite to win the Steve Prescott Man of Steel award.

It was a case of ‘so close, yet so far’ for the Saints last year as they just fell short to Castleford Tigers in the semi-finals of Super League.

They may have not got their hands on silverware last season but let’s take nothing away from them – Justin Holbrook came in midway through the season and led them to a 45-0 win over Hull FC at Magic Weekend in his first game in charge.

Holbrook has won seven out of his 11 Super League games with Saints and he brought in former Dally M Medal winner Ben Barba to the club.

With a full pre-season behind him, Barba looked sharp in Saints’ 24-20 win over Leigh Centurions in their final pre-season friendly of 2018 last week. If he has a big year, then Saints will no doubt have a good chance of winning silverware.

The full-back is ahead of Castleford’s Luke Gale and Wigan’s George Williams in Betfred’s favourites list to win the Steve Prescott Man of Steel award in 2018.

Saints have a lot of options in their spine this year. They are expected to start Barba at full-back so that could see Jonny Lomax competing for a place in the halves alongside Theo Fages, Matty Smith and Danny Richardson – not forgetting England ace James Roby at hooker.

They have got a lot of different combinations they could try and Saints prop Alex Walmsley says it can only be a good thing.

He told loverugbyleague: “Justin is going to have a few headaches this year!

“At no point in Super League history has a team won a Super League with 17 players – it is a squad effort and fortunately, we have got around 25 players who are expecting to play week in, week out.

“And we are lucky to be in a position that if we do pick up a couple of injuries – we have got lads coming in who we know we can rely on and that’s what you need.

“If you look at teams in the past where they have started well and then picked up a few injuries – they dropped off so we are lucky to propel against that.”

Head Coach: Justin Holbrook

Assistant Coach: Jamahl Lolesi & Sean Long

Captain: James Roby

Key Man: Ben Barba

One to Watch: Danny Richardson

Ins: James Bentley (Bradford Bulls)

Outs: Greg Richards (Leigh Centurions), Brad Bilsborough (Whitehaven), Matty Fleming (London Broncos), Tommy Lee (Hull KR)

Squad: 1 Jonny Lomax, 2 Tommy Makinson, 3 Ryan Morgan, 4 Mark Percival, 5 Adam Swift, 6 Theo Fages, 7 Matty Smith, 8 Alex Walmsley, 9 James Roby, 10 Kyle Amor, 11 Zeb Taia, 12 Jon Wilkin, 13 Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 14 Luke Douglas, 15 Morgan Knowles, 16 Luke Thompson, 17 Dominique Peyroux, 18 Danny Richardson, 19 Regan Grace, 20 Matty Lees, 21 Jack Ashworth, 22 Jake Spedding, 23 Ben Barba, 24 James Bentley, 25 Aaron Smith, 26 Liam Cooper, 27 Ben Morris, 28 Josh Eaves, 29 Rob Fairclough, 30 Matty Costello.

Prediction: 1st

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