SAINTS chairman Eamonn McManus believes the club is at the start of what could be a golden era ­— and that winning Super League last year will give the team confidence to shake off the shackles.

And that confidence is based on surveying the well-balanced squad, augmented by quality juniors, which new boss Kristian Woolf has taken over.

But success brings problems, too ­— and Saints currently have a crop of players who are hot property in the world of rugby league.

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Prop Luke Thompson, who is off contract at Saints at the end of the season, has been publicly courted by NRL clubs since catching the eye in the Kiwi test series in 2018.

Saints have made it clear that they want to keep him, and all of their best players. Apart from new financial deals, McManus feels that one of the keys to retaining their stars is highlighting the club’s glowing future.

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McManus said: “Success comes with difficulties ­— we have some very good young players who are hot property.

“All we can do is press upon them that we can give them the very best that St Helens can provide in terms of its coaching, staffing and the players around them.

“We can pay them what we can, within the boundaries of the salary cap, but can also send them the message that for the next four or five years this could be the place to be.

“Ultimately the decisions will be theirs and every player is different.

“Each one has different ambitions. We can do what we can do but ultimately the decision is theirs.

“The NRL is a higher profile competition with more better teams, even if we at St Helens could compete in the NRL most definitely.

“But contrary to that, St Helens is the place to be ­— and what more do you want from a rugby league club than what we have in this point in time.

“I sincerely believe that we are the best rugby league club in the world and this is our golden era ahead of us, potentially.”

Saints will march into the season opener against Salford on 31 January with the bounce that comes with the tag of champions.

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McManus accepts that victory will give them a confidence that will dispel some of the doubts that have clung to them in previous years, but is not getting carried away.

But nevertheless he wants this generation of players to fulfil their potential and fill the trophy cabinet for the years ahead.

The chairman said: "The previous two or three seasons we have had the team - it has been nearly but not quite, regardless of what people say it does play on people’s minds. 'Is it going to happen?'

"To actually get that trophy under our arms, it gives all the players and everyone at our club confidence.

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"When we were getting to finals and semi finals we’d all get anxious, so you would like to think the reverse would happen now. The shackles will be taken off and the real potential will be fulfilled.

"But let’s not get carried away - we have won a Grand Final. That means St Helens has won one in the last five years which is a huge under-performance, so we have got to look at the next five years and make sure win our share."