PAUL Wellens did it all as a player – winning all the domestic individual and team awards in British rugby league.

Since hanging up his boots as a player, when a serious hip injury forced him to finally hobble off the pitch on Good Friday 2015, Wellens has patiently and diligently been learning the coaching ropes.

He started off as player performance manager, working with the academy and then the reserves.

And in the off season - after returning from England World Cup duty - Wellens was elevated to one of Justin Holbrook’s assistants alongside Jamahl Lolesi and Sean Long.

And 22 years since first breaking into the Saints squad as a teenager, the popular former full back and the club’s last Grand Final-winning skipper has been enjoying his new job at the club.

Wellens explained: “My role with the first team is little bit like the one I have had with the national team for the last few years.

“In particular it is working with the back field, working on last plays and defending kicks and that type of stuff.

“It is something throughout my playing experience that I have dealt a lot with, so if I can help in a small way it can have a positive effect on the team.”

With 495 Saints games under his belt, Wellens knows the game inside out but he admits he is still very much learning aspects of coaching.

Although he uses his own experience as elite player to draw from, he wants to soak up as much experience he can from every coach he works under.

Wellens said: “I am very conscious not to rush things, however tempting that might be at times.

“It is fantastic to get to work with another great coach in Justin and see how he goes about things.

“I have been very fortunate in my short coaching career so far to work with coaches like Wayne Bennett, Steve McNamara, Keiron and Nathan Brown and have been able to pick up experiences from each and every one of them.”

He is happy to be on board at a time when something positive is building at the club. And a growing determination - plastered above the doorway in the training base - that St Helens is a club that plays to win things.

It is something Wellens noticed at the back end of last term when they were cruelly knocked out of the play-offs by a golden point drop goal at Castleford.

Wellens is happy to be able to make his contribution to that.

He said: “To be fair this has been building not just this year, but from the back end of last year with the signs of improvement.

“The boys have trained really hard in the pre season as well.

“When you put in that effort and work hard as a team, combined with the ability that you have got within the group, you’d like to think it will have positive results.”

And so far this year the quartet of World Cup players, who he spent the autumn with in the England camp, are among those who have started the year strongly.

Wellens reflects on what was a positive tournament in Australia - with England reaching their first final since 1995 and only narrowly being pipped.

He said: “The World Cup was a fantastic experience.

“We were frustrated with the end result but there was a very determined group out there.

“Within the camp we were very confident we could go there and be successful.

“It was not quite to be but the national team is going from strength to strength.”

And there has been no sign of fatigue yet from those players who barely had a break in the off-season, with the quartet hitting the ground running on their return.

Wellens was not surprised by their response.

“I used to find myself when I used to play international that you take a lot from the experience,” he said.

“You have got an extra few games at the end but you still get that few weeks rest when you come back, but you also have that extra bit of confidence, knowing that you can compete at the highest level.

“You see that with Al, Jonny, Percy and Robes,”

So all going well then.

He does, however, have one bug-bear - but that something is out of the club’s hands.

Namely, the lack of regular fixtures for the reserves.

He said: “It is a frustration of mine to be honest.

“I’d like to see a fully fledged reserves competition if I am honest.

“A number of lads who are on the fringe of the squad, but who are not eligible for the 19s are going to struggle to get games.

“That is a state of affairs in our game – all lads need to do to improve is to play and we can’t afford them the opportunity.

“We will try our best to get them fixtures and hopefully we can get as many as we can along the way.

“We managed 14 or 15 last year.

“If we get something similar this year it will be really positive.”