DAY 12 of the Saints Advent looks at the champion team that opened the new Millennium - with Ellery Hanley at the helm.

The build up to the new century was greeted with plenty of hype around the ill-fated Dome and a few unfounded fears over Millennium bugs.

For Saints, despite going into the year as champions, there were still a few bugs in the Knowsley Road system and they would soon lead to an irrevocable break down.

2000 was only 24 days old when Saints opened their campaign with a pretty emphatic 44-6 mauling at the hands of Melbourne Storm at a bitterly cold JJB Stadium, Wigan.

It was the first World Club Challenge between the respective champions but Saints did not do themselves justice.

The start of the domestic season was still a few weeks away but when it came Saints handed a debut to new signing Darrell Trindall in the halves for the Challenge Cup win at Swinton – replacing Tommy Martyn.

Why Saints had signed the South Sydney half back was baffling considering that Martyn was approaching the peak of his career and his partnership with Sean Long was at its most fruitful.

It would prove to be a short-lived link up with Trindall’s last game in the red vee coming in their second consecutive Challenge Cup knockout at Leeds, losing 26-20.

Coach Ellery Hanley had been suspended in 1999 and reprieved after the board caved in to fans protests.

There is no denying Hanley had done a job in 12 months at Saints restoring discipline in 1999 and getting the most out of players like Kevin Iro, Paul Atcheson and Freddie Tuilagi, but some of that good work seemed to be unravelling at the start of 2000.

And so when Hanley failed to attend the pre-season Super League launch and was then critical of the way the club was being run at a sponsors evening at the Hilton Hotel he was skating on thin ice.

The quirks of the fixture card would seal Hanley’s fate pretty early on.

The first game of Super League was a repeat of the previous year’s Grand Final against a Bulls side that had spent the off-season bearing a grudge.

They had plenty of motivation coming into that opener at Knowsley Road and they caught Saints at the right time, the Bulls winning 32-10.

So four games in and the only victory Saints had chalked up was against championship side Swinton.

The board seized their moment.

On March 11 Hanley was sacked with the board citing “fundamental breaches of contract”.

This time round there was not so much as a faint whimper from the fans.

In his place came Australian Ian Millward, who was doing well with Championship side Leigh, and so would start another eventful chapter in Saints’ history.