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Jon Wilkin Column: Time to reflect on a year of massive challenges for us
ANOTHER season is over and it has been such a journey this year for our team.
It has been one of the biggest challenges I have faced since being at the club. We started so poorly and then spent six months clawing back the bad start.
We lost a coach, we gained two, we gave numerous young players opportunities and have said goodbye to some amazing players. Andrew Dixon and Mike Shenton are moving on and it has been a pleasure playing with those guys.
They have been good fun to have around and been great players to play alongside. One guy who is leaving to sell property on the sunshine coast (not Blackpool) is Chris Flannery, who is returning to Australia.
You couldn't meet a better bloke than Flanno. He has been such a good mate and has had a fantastic career. I want to wish him and his lovely family all the best for the future and I know all Saints fans will echo the well wishes to all the players who are moving on.
This is a constant process in our game, every year players leave and new players come in, coaches leave and new coaches come in.
The one thing that is consistent is the club, its ethos and the supporters and that’s what makes this place special.
So thank you for everyone that supported us this year, I think back to Bradford away in torrential rain or Catalans away willing us on to defend our line. And then recall Leeds at home in the sun when our year started and Langtree Park came to life.
Well they did it again. Most people including myself thought that Warrington may be too strong in the final but yet again Leeds produced a game plan to beat Warrington.
The Leeds team you see in the play-offs is a completely different side to the one that is witnessed during the weekly rounds of the season.
It does make you wonder why they don't adopt a similar game plan throughout the season but regardless it seems to be working for them.
Despite what they, and others, have said has been an average season for Leeds they have a Challenge Cup final appearance and a Grand Final winners ring.
It was gut wrenching to attempt to watch the final because you couldn't help but feel that we could have beaten both sides in the final.
At the end of the season it is very difficult to summarise the feelings of an entire season with one word, the season had many different points, peaks and troughs. Looking back to the start of the year we sat in 10th position in the league and following a home defeat to Hull I thought it was potentially a catastrophic year ahead.
As we have done in the past and always will do we fought our way back into a good position and I just wonder if the energy required to get us back into contention ultimately told in the end.
We were 80 minutes away from Old Trafford and that is the frustrating thing - but the reality was earlier in the year Old Trafford seemed a lot further away.
The reality is though regardless where you finish you are three games away from Old Trafford unless you finish outside of the eight.
Leeds again have shown the merits of finishing fifth - granted no team would ever wish to finish there rather than higher but Leeds have shown it is not a bad way to get to Old Trafford.
You build momentum and credit to Leeds for turning momentum into medals.
The off season is like scatter in terms of the players, we go from communicating every day to being faced by a barrage of overseas ring tones and phones switched off.
Many players choose to get away with the family as the less attractive part of our job is an 11 month slog with many sacrifices along the way.
The players families and friends face the brunt of that and the month off that we have is a chance to give them your focus for once.
If you don't go away players migrate to a comfortable place with a nice reclining bed, food and drinks on demand! That’s right, the hospital.
I have just come out of the Alexandra Hospital at Cheadle in Manchester where I have been in the very capable hands of one of our team of surgeons. We have a series of specialists in all body parts. Dr Hayton (hands) Dr Scott (Groins) Dr Leggate (Neck and Spine) Dr Len Funk (shoulders) - you have to love that name! Dr Watts (Elbows) and Dr Clough (ankles).
Thankfully this isn't Dr Paul Clough as I couldn't think of anything worse than waking up from surgery and seeing Cloughy leaning over me, in fact he would be the worst surgeon possible, his eye sight is equivalent to a mole coupled with that he is notoriously tight.
We consistently let these guys sedate us and then cut us open to fix our ailments and it is a part of the job whether you like it or not. For anyone that has not had surgery before it is a funny thing.
Firstly you have to sit in your own room waiting to be handed a pair of paper underpants and a surgery gown to put on.
They call you into see the anaesthetist he puts an IV in the back of your hand and injects a series of chemicals that knocks you out immediately, within what feels like seconds you start to come round in the recovery ward feeling very confused and usually in a lot of pain and wondering where you are and why you're wearing paper underpants.
Getting injured is an occupational hazard and playing hurt is an industry standard also but we all love it.
On the Testimonial front on November 25 Langtree Park will be hosting the Ty-phoo Celebrity football match as my celebrity select 11 will take on a Liverpool Legends team.
It should be a great Sunday afternoon for the family and come along to laugh at Paul Wellens pretending he is actually a Man City player.
Mike Rush has also asked to play so that could be fun.
There will be several soap stars turning out also I will keep you posted about the details of the day. Tickets will be on sale in the near future.
Also just want to welcome all the new recruits and Nathan Brown to the club.