SAINTS full back Paul Wellens looks ahead to another year wearing the red vee and the skipper’s armband with the same optimism, anticipation and infectious enthusiasm he showed as a teenager establishing himself as first team regular.
Wellens, who turns 33 next month, may now be cautiously taking his career 12-months at a time, but there is no sign yet that the rock solid number one is preparing for the finish line.
Rather there is a burning desire for the hometown skipper to play his part in helping steer Saints, under new boss Nathan Brown, back on to the path of picking up silverware.
And surveying the 12 players stood in front of him on match day, a strong bench and those champing at the bit the get into the panel, Wellens is confident that the four-year trophy drought can end this term.
Wellens said the off season has gone well, boosted by the availability of the majority of the squad in training since November, as they keenly take on board the new ideas of new boss Brown and Jamahl Lolesi, who has joined Keiron Cunningham as an assistant coach.
He said: “Nathan and Jamahl have had a positive impact on the club.
“In the short time they have been here, not just on the field with the things we are working on, but off it too with changing the culture and a few different attitudes.
“The guys have trained really well since coming back.
“And it has helped that for the first time since I have been here we have had the majority of the squad back for pre-season which will hopefully give us a new start.”
Wellens has been a permanent fixture at Saints for a long time now and has seen plenty of good times and a few turbulent ones since bursting into Shaun McRae’s team towards the end of 1998.
And that experience of seeing all the ups and downs, the big match wins and the Grand Final heartaches makes the long-standing number one a good judge of where Saints are at now.
It is not a false optimism that fuels Wellens’ view that the men in the red vee can break the stranglehold that Leeds, Warrington and Wigan have had on the trophies this past four years.
That opinion is not based simply on the fresh blood that has come into the team or the benefits of the new coaching regime, it also a reflects of what the team achieved when pulling together last term.
Wellens said: “Although we did not win anything last season – and should never accept that because winning trophies is what we should always strive to do - there were a lot of positives that we could take out of the year.
“I mean the way we responded after a poor start, the way we played in some big games against Leeds and at Warrington a couple of times.
“We played some good stuff during the course of the year and Nathan has touched on it quite a few times since coming to the club that it is not about changing a great deal because we are not that far off.
“It is about making a few adjustments, adding a few little things that will take us that little bit further.
“I know, having been involved with this club a very long time, that we are a very good team and I am confident with the squad we have got and the personnel that we have brought in is excellent.
“The young players will benefit from a years experience and that will help us as a group.
“I enjoyed last year. It was a difficult start – when a coach leaves the club you take that personally as players and that was disappointing.
“But the way we responded and character we showed – I was pleased that I could play my part to help turn around that early dip in form.”
He points to the recruitment of Willie Manu, Jordan Turner and Alex Walmsley as big signings for the club, which combined with the advancement of the youngsters gives saints a strong panel competing for 17 match day spots.
“Whenever I have played in St Helens sides in the past that have been successful that has been the case where you are scratching your head wondering who is going to be left out of the team, that provides competition for places and people can’t take their eyes off the ball.
“If you have a poor couple of games you could find yourself out of the team.
“That’s the way it should be and hopefully that is what it will be through the course of the year to stay in the team,” he said.
As for Wellens, he is delighted again to be confirmed as skipper and vowed to “give it his everything”.
How long he will carry on will be a decision he will take a bit further down the line – he turns 33 next year, which is younger than Warrington trio Adrian Morley, Brett Hodgson and Lee Briers, who continue to show age is only a number.
“If you look after yourself and have a bit of luck with injuries you can play until you are 34 or 35.
“Whether I will do that, I am not so sure at the moment.
“I will take it year on year and that is the sensible option for myself and the club. My only focus is playing well in 2013 and hopefully leading the team to some success.
“If, in 12 months time I am sat here again previewing another season then great, if I am not it will be because the time is right to pack in.
“Only then will I know,” he said