SAINTS boss Nathan Brown looks ahead to Friday night’s tricky clash against Wakefield, in conversation with the Star’s senior sports writer Mike Critchley.
MC: Wakefield have taken some high-profile scalps recently, haven’t they?
NB: Any team would take a month in which you beat Wigan, Leeds and Warrington and be delighted. That shows a number of things – Richard Agar was moving on after leading them to safety and a new coach always brings a bit of change in the short term., Tim Smith has also had a fair impact on his return.
James Webster is doing a good job there and to get the scalps they have claimed is a fair achievement.
Regardless of who we play, given the personnel we have lost, we cannot take anyone lightly.
MC: Is the focus now about building momentum for the play-offs, or is it more a case that having been top for so long, it would be a shame to let the Leaders’ Shield slip away?
NB: It is what we spoke about after the Hull game. To lead the competition is a good achievement – to lead at this stage given what we have had throughout the year is something to be proud of.
But what they can be more proud of is how hard they fight over the next month to maintain that position.
We can’t guarantee that if we go out and play to our best that we win all of our remaining games, but if we don’t play to our best we won’t win.
That is the challenge for us as a whole group, to play the best we can and see where it takes us. If it takes us to a few wins and we keep top, then great, but if it doesn’t and we have competed hard then it can make people feel proud.
MC: The way the pack played in the first eight weeks was a key to that early success – apart from Jon Wilkin, that pack is back up to full strength.
NB: We have spoken about that. We should never come off the field as a forward pack having been dominated.
We may fall down in some other areas, but we should at least come off 50:50 and give our new combinations an even chance, and against Hull we didn’t do that.
MC: You cannot legislate for losing all of your halves and players who who cover seven in such a short period?
NB: It is one of those things – not long ago the back-ups to Sean Long were Jonny Lomax, Matty Smith and Kyle Eastmond but they are rare times you go through. You rarely have a club that can go through and lose a seven and replace him with one – not in today’s game where you can’t stockpile players because of the salary cap.
MC: You have been blessed with plenty of young forwards that you have been able to blood – are the halves not quite ready to step in?
NB: That is right – young Dave Hewitt has been doing a fair bit of training with us this past six weeks and he is definitely a talented young player and we have high hopes for him as a Super League player.
But when you get a situation like this you can’t just put him in the first team because we have to – it is whether he is they are ready.
MC: Lewis Charnock has not had a shout this year – where are we up to with his development?
NB: Duggie is training with the team and is doing well – he is playing a fair bit at hooker and at loose forward in the 19s.