SAINTS have begun their search for a new head coach for the 2023 season following the announcement that Kristian Woolf is returning to Australia at the end of the year.

Woolf, who has so far helped deliver two Super League titles, a Challenge Cup and a League Leaders Shield in three seasons at Saints, will be a hard act to follow.

Although there will be plenty of interest and candidates on both sides of the rugby league globe, when asked about the attributes of his current assistant Paul Wellens, Woolf gave a ringing endorsement.

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A club statement this afternoon read: "The club is already underway with planning its coaching staff appointments for 2023 and will be making no further comment on Kristian’s replacement until the conclusion of the current season."

But there is inevitable speculation that Wellens, who has been an assistant under Justin Holbrook and Woolf, as well as at international level with Steve McNamara, Wayne Bennett and Shaun Wane, could be in the box seat.

As a player Wellens won every domestic team and individual honour in the game with Saints, during a 495-appearance career before injury called time in 2015.

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But Woolf judges his suitability for the role purely on his coaching knowhow and people skills rather than a past playing reputation.  

When asked about Wellens' attributes in his weekly Star Q&A, Woolf said: "The club will make a decision on who they see as the best fit going forward.

"What I would say is that I would 100 per cent endorse Paul Wellens as the next coach.

"I came here three years ago knowing what he had achieved as a player but not knowing him as a coach or a person.

"I would go as far as saying he’s an exceptional person, someone I have grown extremely close to and he’ll be a lifelong friend after I leave.

"I have grown to respect him extremely highly as a coach.

"He is one of, if not the best assistants I have had the privilege of working with.

"He has a terrific football knowledge, an outstanding work ethic, he looks at the game differently and how the game should be played.

"He also gets his messages across which is an important trait for an upcoming coach.

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"He has a terrific nature and his ability to speak with players and manage them is an attribute. He is a very honest person as well but he gives that in the right way and can still keep that human side and keep that relationship is an important part of coaching.

"If the club went that way, Paul has done a great apprenticeship under some outstanding coaches, internationally and at this club.

"I would have no doubt whatsoever he would be an enormous success."