SAINTS coach Nathan Brown has spelled out that the spate of injuries suffered by his half backs have caused them to look again at their recruitment priorities.
Although not naming names – choosing to remain tight-lipped on the Travis Burns speculation – Brown said they needed a “good, not an OK” half back.
Season ending injuries to Luke Walsh, Jonny Lomax and Jon Wilkin – and the short-term absence of Lance Hohaia – have left Saints without their Plan A and B as they close in on the League Leaders’ Shield and the play-offs.
Although the doctors expect both Lomax and Walsh to make good recoveries in time for 2015, Brown is already thinking a step ahead.
Brown said: “The thing is when you have Walshy and Jonny both off with very serious lower limb injuries we need to provide some sort of cover for them because we don’t know when they are going to come back and how they are going to come back.
“Although you are confident that they are going to get back to their best, is that going to be in February or is going to be April?
“If everything goes well, those two will be fine. But with serious lower limb injuries like that you can’t just expect it to be good.”
Available quality halves are as rare as hen’s teeth – and it is apparent Saints will have to pay a transfer fee to make the right player become available.
“We are out there looking,” said Brown.
“He won’t be an OK player or average player, but a good one, because the reality is if one or both are short when we come back in February we will need an experienced person to provide for the team until they do come back.
“Myself, Mike Rush and the chairman are all out there looking to see what is about and what is available.
“We have funds available and we are looking hard.
“What may have been a priority has changed because of the situation of the past four weeks. We can’t control that one.
“They have to go through long phase of rehab and hope it goes like clockwork.
“Jonny has come back from a knee before and been terrific and confident will again.
“Likewise Walshy looks after himself and surgeon says he will be back on date X, but if they both have setbacks and they come back later it puts pressure on squad from day one.
“We have got young Dave Hewitt coming through who is going to provide something for us the way he is training with us at the moment and playing with the 19s.”
So far Saints have only announced one new signing for 2015 – Tongan packman Atelea Vea coming up from London Broncos.
Brown said: “Tils (Vea) is coming in as a perfect replacement for Willie Manu– he is a younger version of Willie and is going to be a good addition to the squad.”
Prop Anthony Laffranchi is retiring and popular packman Sia Soliola is heading back to the NRL to join Canberra.
“Although some players have left, we have upgraded the contracts of some of the good local players who have come into the squad and kept them,” added Brown.
“Then Kyle Amor and Alex Walmsley get upgraded too.”