St Helens head coach Paul Wellens has commended the attitude of youngster Ben Davies, who has impressed in recent weeks having had to wait a long time for his chance to come around.
The 23-year-old made 16 senior appearances for Saints in 2022, with the last of those coming in September against Toulouse Olympique.
This year, opportunities have been more limited, with games more often than not coming on dual registration for Swinton Lions in the Championship, and as the unused 18th man for the Red Vee.
But, with injuries and suspensions hitting the squad at the Totally Wicked Stadium, the centre – also able to play in the halves – has been called upon by Wellens, and has pulled out some eye-catching performances.
Paul Wellens sings praises of young star Ben Davies
Davies has been started Saints’ last three games in the centres, and capped off a memorable few weeks with a try in last Friday’s 28-6 home win against Hull KR.
Boss Wellens, who also came through the ranks at the club, said: “I think Ben Davies over the last few weeks has done a wonderful job.
“I say that about him because even for the five or six weeks beforehand, he was training so well but never quite getting an opportunity. He’s stayed patient and when he has got that opportunity, he’s gone out there and done really well for us.
“We think his best position is centre but we also know he’s got great versatility. He did a great job, played stand-off in a Challenge Cup semi-final against Wigan just over a year ago, so he’s shown that he’s got that versatility and shown that he can compete in big games as well.
“He’s a bit of a throwback Ben, he’s one of those players that you can throw out there and tell him to do a job in any position and he’d put his hand up, he’s a very smart football player. He understands the role of different positions so his versatility is crucial, but he’s certainly doing a wonderful job for us in the centres at the moment.”
Plaudits St Helens academy ace: ‘He’s a big contributor to what we’re about now’
Widnes-born Davies began his youth career with local clubs Halton Farnworth Hornets and Widnes Moorfield. He also represented England U18s and at regional level Lancashire Academy.
Spending time in the academy at Widnes Vikings, the utility back made his senior bow against York City Knights in 2019. By October of the following year, he’d made a Super League debut against Salford Red Devils for new club Saints.
Three years on, having also spent time on loan at Salford, there’s high praise for his character from chief Wellens.
The 43-year-old coach added: “He is a guy that just seems to really enjoy playing. I think he’ll be one of them that when he decides to retire at the age of 35 or whatever, he’ll still be running around on park field in Widnes somewhere playing footy – he seems that type of bloke.
“Ben is a wonderful lad and ever since he’s come into the environment, he’s worked really hard to get up to speed in terms of fitness and in terms of his skill level.
“He’s worked so hard to do that and he’s a big contributor to what we’re about now.”