Speedy young backs can add zip to Saints' attack

Mark Percival

Mark Percival

First published in Sport
Last updated
St Helens Star: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Sports Writer

MUCH has been made of Saints’ monster pack for next term, but the evolution of the backline into one with genuine speed will hopefully bear fruit this year.

A younger, slicker and quicker back three finished last term and they will be in pole position to continue their development in 2014 – although veteran Ade Gardner will still have something to say about that.

In the centres Jordan Turner enjoyed an impressive maiden first term in the red vee, and in his run outs before injury took its toll teenager Mark Percival showed a genuine attacking prowess.

The young Widnesian’s fleet of foot caught the eye with his breaks against Leeds in the spring unsettling an experienced defensive unit.

Percival was dipped in and out of the team, but needed a shoulder operation towards the end of the year and that curtailed his season.

But he is back bigger and stronger for 2014 and coach Nathan Brown expects the young centre to make an impression.

Brown said: “Having the surgery and a good pre-season was really important for his development.

“It would have been nice to have had him fit at the back end of the year but it was more important for his to get his body in shape.

“He has been training well.

“He has a lot of natural talent a young kid with a lot of understanding of where space is and how to beat people is natural to him.

“His biggest challenges was improving his body physically which he has worked really hard to do and to play consistently well.

“That is the challenge for all the young kids in our squad.

“They have trained well but let’s see when they play how far they have advanced their game.”

With veteran Francis Meli moving on to Salford there are pretty big boots to fill on that side of the pitch.

Saints look as though they are going to downsize a little on those flanks, swapping raw power for nimble feet.

Brown explained: “Tommy has had two solid seasons at the club and Swifty came in at the back end of last season and played well.

“Gardsy is coming back from injury and Percival can play on the wing and Matty Dawson has come in as well.

“There is some competition there for those guys.

“Swifty has had a bit of surgery on a minor foot problem but he is not going to be too far away – whether he is fit to start the year I am not sure.

“Matty Dawson is quite a big athletic kid with a good awareness of space if he gets the opportunity and a bit of luck he should be a good Super League player.”

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