St Helens have lost the last five Grand Finals, so it would be easy to presume they would end that run soon.
And looking at their squad there is little reason to doubt why they shouldn’t push their big two rivals all the way. Lance Hohaia has come in as a direct replacement to Leon Pryce, while Anthony Laffranchi comes in as a replacement for James Graham.
Jonny Lomax looks to have solidified his place in the starting 13 at scrum half having been given the number seven shirt by Royce Simmons. The experience of Hohaia and the youthful knowledge of Lomax could cause problems for opponents.
Anthony Laffranchi comes to Saints on the back of several years as a dominant prop forward for Gold Coast in the NRL. He has international experience having represented Australia in the 2008 World Cup, and has won a Grand Final playing for Wests in 2005. He will be a bigger threat than James Graham, and pairing up with Josh Perry, Saints’ front row looks threatening.
With the strength in the forwards, and the brains of a decent half back pairing, Saints look confident of ending that five year Grand Final losing run.
Key man: James Roby
James Roby announced himself as a confident hooker who didn’t need the help of his veteran partner. Until Keiron Cunningham’s retirement in 2010, Roby had never consistently played as a first choice hooker for St Helens. However he stepped up to fulfil Cunningham’s boots last season, and led Saints to another Grand Final. Roby has only been part of a squad that has won one Grand Final in six attempts, but that hasn’t disheartened him or any of the squad from achieving that goal again. Not when you consider Saints dominated the Challenge Cup for three consecutive years.
One-to-watch: Lance Hohaia
Lance Hohaia is a fully fledged fullback having played in that position throughout his international career. However his role as a stand off at New Zealand Warriors saw him snapped up by Royce Simmons, giving Hohaia the chance to show the rest of the world what he is capable of achieving in his rightful position. But the excellent form of Kevin Locke at fullback and James Maloney at stand off gave the Hohaia the utility role throughout the last season.
Prediction: A strong side but could the loss of Graham and Pryce be too much, 3rd.
Super League Grand Final Odds: 7/2 (3rd favourites)
League Leaders Odds: 10/3 (3rd)
Challenge Cup Odds: 4/1 (3rd)
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Squad: Paul Wellens, Ade Gardner, Michael Shenton, Sia Soliola, Francis Meli, Lance Hohaia, Jonny Lomax, Josh Perry, James Roby, Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Tony Puletua, Jon Wilkin, Chris Flannery, Anthony Laffranchi, Mark Flanagan, Paul Clough, Gary Wheeler, Shaun Magennis, Andrew Dixon, Lee Gaskell, Tommy Makinson, Jamie Foster, Scott Hale, Nathan Ashe, Carl Forster, Josh Jones, Danny Jones, Joe Greenwood, Anthony Walker, Jordan Hand.