Retaining James Roby should be heralded as much as a new star signing

St Helens Star: James Roby James Roby

JAMES Roby’s decision to effectively commit the remainder of his playing career to Saints by signing a new five-year deal should be heralded as much as a new signing.

The England number nine had been subject to plenty of interest Down Under and he had already turned down an offer to join Parramatta at the end of his testimonial year in 2014.

And that was before an outstanding World Cup, which featured an impressive effort in which he outshone Kangaroos skipper Cameron Smith in the World Cup opener at Cardiff.

No wonder Australia coach Tim Sheens declared that Roby “could handle NRL easily”, but it should be a matter of great relief to Saints and the domestic competition that he is not following his former Blackbrook teammate to Sydney.

The former Blackbrook junior, who is currently enjoying his benefit year with a mouth-watering testimonial game soon to be announced, is delighted to have secured a new deal which could see him emulate predecessor Keiron Cunningham as a one club man.

Roby said: "It's great to commit to a long term deal with St Helens. I signed with them immediately after school and am now entering my testimonial season.

“It is more than fulfilling to spend my entire career with such a great club."

Roby, who turned 28 on the eve of England’s big game against New Zealand, has enjoyed a glittering career in the red vee since making his debut in 2004.

Although he started off largely as cover in the halves, the arrival of Daniel Anderson in mid 2005 and the subsequent departure of Mickey Higham saw Roby nail down that spot as interchange hooker.

Immediately his pace, deceptive strength and powers of evasion became the perfect complement to the powerhouse Cunningham giving opposing defences nightmares in dealing with the contrasting styles.

In 280 appearances for Saints, Roby has so far scored 73 tries including the extra special first touchdown at the new Wembley in the 2007 Challenge Cup Final against Catalan.

Despite being an interchange hooker that year, that try put the icing on the cake of his performances generally, resulting in him being voted Super League Man of Steel that year ahead of Wigan’s much trumpeted Trent Barrett.

International honours with both Great Britain and England soon followed and he is now an automatic choice in Steve McNamara’s selection.

Saints chairman, Eamonn McManus added: "This is a huge and timely boost both for the club and, just as importantly, for Super League.

“Understandably, as one of the best hookers in the world, James attracted considerable interest from the NRL but ultimately showed continued loyalty to St Helens and to the English game.

“It is now his testimonial year so I would hope that our fans and rugby league fans generally, show their support for his testimonial game and events in recognition of his continued loyalty and commitment to our club and to our league.

“He has been St Helens' stand out performer for the last decade and is one of English Rugby League's national treasures.

“It's more than gratifying to know that he has committed long term to us and that we can continue to build the next generation of Saints players around him."

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