A SHORT four-week break is all that has stopped powerhouse packman Sia Soliola’s 2013 season colliding, trademark style, headfirst into the one that is nearly upon us.
But the big-hitting back rower could not wait to get back to the training ground and prepare for what has been the club’s most eagerly anticipated campaign for a few years.
Although he is not yet 100 per cent fit after damaging his knee during a blood-to-water World Cup stint skippering Samoa, he has progressed well in rehab and expects to play in James Roby’s testimonial game against Wigan at the end of the month.
The World Cup was a physically demanding tournament, but the buzz of skippering the island nation – and some heavy duty leg strapping - helped get him and Samoa through with heads held high.
Now it is about using those feelgood experiences to fuel another big campaign in Super League for the 26-year-old former Sydney Rooster.
Soliola said: “It was a great honour to captain Samoa and took that to heart, something I will cherish for a long time. It just put a lot more responsibility on you and I was so proud, particularly because a lot of our big names were missing.
“I got four weeks off went back to Australia and it was good to see friends and family over there.
"But it was good to be back too because we have got a lot of new faces at Saints that I’m looking forward to working with.
“At the moment I am in rehab trying to get my knee right. I am taking it week by week at this stage. I hurt it in the World Cup and thought it was pretty minor but it is a little tear, so not doing too much too early and we are being a bit cautious with it.
“But as soon as that is better I am looking forward to playing alongside Kyle Amor, Mose Masoe and Richard Beaumont.
“Everyone has seen what Mose Masoe can do in the World Cup. It is probably what we have needed for a while but we just need to see him playing a bit more minutes.
“Big Alex had a good year last season and he will be looking to roll into this one too.”
The 35 man squad published by Saints features a dozen players who can play front row, the back row will also see some keen battle for spots, particularly now that Jon Wilkin will now take up his natural position after spending 2013 in the halves.
It probably means that if Soliola is not 100 per cent fit at the start, the shirt will not be tossed to someone who won’t make his presence felt.
Soliola said: “We are fortunate this year with doing so well in recruiting for the season and that is going to help us a lot.
“We have a lot of help which will help competition with everyone fighting for positions, which is good because we have not had that for a while.
“Apart from the newcomers, we have got kids with a little bit more experience from last year.
“We have definitely got some guys that have played at a high level too, so everyone is looking at their spots. That is good because we didn’t really have that kind of experience at the back end of last year to push through in the big games.”
This is a big fifth year at Saints for Soliola, who despite some fine displays in the red vee has yet to pick up a medal.
“I love it here at St Helens – I still have a year option on my contract at the end of this season so we will play it by ear really and see how the family goes both here and back home,” he said.