St Helens exclusive: Jack Welsby on ‘righting some wrongs’, his personal drive and Saints’ hunger to regain Super League crown

Ross Heppenstall
Jack Welsby, St Helens

Jack Welsby in action for St Helens in 2023 - Alamy

Heartbreaking does not even begin to describe St Helens’ agonising play-off semi-final defeat at Catalans Dragons last season.

A team who had won a record four successive Grand Finals saw the Super League trophy ripped from their grasp when Sam Tomkins weaved his way over the line for a dramatic late winning try.

And so it was Catalans who went on to face Wigan Warriors at Old Trafford eight days later.

But a new season has brought new hope for Paul Wellens’ Saints.

Club legends James Roby and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook and fellow veteran Will Hopoate may have retired but Daryl Clark, Matt Whitley and Waqa Blake have arrived.

Homegrown products Jake Burns, Ben Lane, McKenzie Buckley, Dayon Sambou, Will Roberts, Jonny Vaughan, Noah Stephens and Leon Cowen will also feature in the first team squad this season.

And while the scars of the Catalans defeat have yet to fully heal, for Jack Welsby representing England in the three-match test series against Tonga last autumn provided a soothing balm.

Shaun Wane’s men won the series 3-0 and Welsby captained the team for the first time in the opening two tests when George Williams was suspended.

Welsby, regarded as the best young player in the British game, told Love Rugby League: “The way last season ended with Saints was tough to take.

“But I was lucky, along with Matty Lees, Morgan Knowles and Tommy Makinson, in that we had a test series with England against Tonga.

“We managed to win 3-0 and I spoke to Waney shortly before we came into camp.

Wigan had won the Grand Final and I said ‘I’ve had better weekends to be honest’.

“We had a laugh and I spoke about putting things right, which I definitely did because it was a brilliant three weeks.

“I then went away on holiday with my girlfriend but came back and started thinking ‘where did we go wrong with Saints?’

“I was racking my brains for a good couple of months, along with the other half-backs in the team, trying to figure out where we went wrong.

“I think we’ve been righting some wrongs in pre-season and just need to continue doing that heading into round one.”

Jack Welsby on upcoming World Club Challenge: ‘It’s not very often I cheer for Wigan any more, but I want them to beat Penrith’

St Helens lift World Club Challenge against Penrith Panthers - Alamy St Helens lift the 2023 World Club Challenge after beating Penrith Panthers in Australia (Alamy)

Welsby goes into the new season armed with a new, improved contract which keeps him at St Helens until the end of 2027.

The 22-year-old has made a total of 117 appearances for Saints, scoring 53 tries for the club.

He has played in and won three Super League Grand Finals, as well as the 2021 Challenge Cup at Wembley.

His performances against Penrith Panthers in the World Club Challenge last February and in the Tonga series whitewash proved he can cut it against the world’s best players.

“Yes, I suppose so,” said the imposing full-back.

“Obviously we beat Penrith, who won the NRL title again, and then whitewashed a very good Tonga side 3-0.

“I know Australia and New Zealand are probably the benchmark, but Tonga are a very strong outfit.

“We’ll see how Wigan get on against Penrith in the World Club Challenge later this month.

“I’m sure they will give them a very good game. It’s not very often I cheer for Wigan any more, but I want them to beat Penrith.”

Welsby outlines his personal drive to succeed in 2024

Welsby is a fierce competitor and has lofty ambitions for the year ahead.

“I just want to win another Grand Final, Challenge Cup and League Leaders’ Shield,” he added.

“If you’re not setting out to win them all, then you’re setting yourselves up to fail.

“You’ve got to want to win every game you play and I’m certainly not one of those people who leaves anything in reserve.

“I leave it all out there and do anything to get the results for me and the boys.”

St Helens hungry to regain Super League crown

Welsby has enjoyed a profitable pre-season and believes St Helens’ recent warm-weather training camp in Cyprus will benefit them when the new campaign kicks off.

He said: “It’s not just about having a camp abroad, but a good pre-season in general can give you a massive boost heading into a new campaign.

“I came back in one week before Christmas and was then straight back in on January 3, so I feel really fit and excited and I know a lot of the boys do.”

The big question is this: Can Saints regain their Super League crown?

“Well yes, 100 per cent,” declared Welsby.

“We’ve brought in some really smart players and retained some class players, so I don’t see why not.

“We were unlucky last year in some aspects and have got to improve in other areas, but on our day we’ll beat anyone. We’ve just got to time it right.”

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