Nathan Brown remains upbeat despite challenging news

Luke Walsh

Luke Walsh

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

SAINTS and their supporters can be forgiven for wishing to obliterate Tuesday, March 18 from the calendar after a triple dose of challenging news that threatens to prick the bubble of optimism that has been growing since the start of the season.

The biggest blow was that star import Luke Walsh will be sidelined for up to six weeks after picking up a calf injury in Friday’s win over Catalan.

That period that will see him miss a difficult opening Challenge Cup round at Huddersfield as well as big league games against Leeds and possibly Wigan.

The team’s linchpin and goalkicker, Walsh has pulled the strings in helping Saints keep the only 100 per cent start to the season.

 He is joined on the sidelines by strike centre Jordan Turner, who will be missing for between three and four weeks.

Form prop of the year so far, Alex Walmsley, will also miss Sunday’s trip to Wakefield after picking up a groin injury but he is expected to be for for the Leeds clash.

But there is more positive news on Sia Soliola, who was led off in some agony on Friday, with the powerhouse backrower classed as 50/50 for the visit to Belle Vue.

The Walsh injury in particular comes at a bad time for the Saints with some big games in league and cup, and the gruelling Easter double header.

With that in mind Saints would have been praying to avoid one of the big guns in the Challenge Cup tie.

But, alas, Saints’ name came out of the velvet bag second meaning they must make a trip to last year’s League Leaders Shield winners – on Sunday, April 6.

And to round off the day, Saints prop Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook was banned for two matches for dangerous contact in the tackle on Leon Pryce. It means that the popular Londoner’s run of 60 consecutive games comes to an end.

Despite what looks like a tale of woe, the mood within the Saints camp remains upbeat with coach Nathan Brown stressing his faith in the strong roster and specifically Jon Wilkin’s capabilities to do what he did last term at number seven.

Brown said: “I think everyone is realistic. We brought Luke Walsh over here for a reason; he has a skill set that helps our team.

“But this is a proud footy club and reality is we are unbeaten. Walshy has played a part in that with what he has done, but a lot of other people are playing a part in it.

“Wilko played a big part last season – he is more than a competent half back now and I know the boys are feeling confident playing with Wilko at 7.

“This time last year he was practising at being a half, but this year he can do it comfortably."

So on Sunday a much-changed Saints will travel to a free-scoring Wakefield, a team who have posted back-to-back half centuries.

"We have a lot of confidence in the squad and the younger players who played last season will get an opportunity,” Brown added.

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