SAINTS coach Kristian Woolf was keen for his players to enjoy the fruits of their success of a third consecutive Grand Final before dwelling too much on what comes next.

That is understandable – after all, this crop of 2021 have pulled off something no other Saints team have ever done in completing a hat-trick of league title successes.

And all that has been achieved against the backdrop of Covid, season-ending injuries to a couple of regular starters plus the emotionally and physically run to a first Wembley success.

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But much of the build up inevitably focused on it being the final game in the red vee for Lachlan Coote and Kevin Naiqama, who join Theo Fages, James Bentley and Joel Thompson in leaving the club.

Not all players get to write a fairytale ending but Fages still managed to play his part running water at Old Trafford.

However, for Naiqama and Coote United’s ground was indeed the Theatre of Dreams.

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Fijian test skipper Naiqama scored twice, with his second levelling the match on 65 minutes.

The head knock sustained in the act of scoring made sure it was his last act for Saints, but it was enough to secure the Harry Sunderland award for the man of the match.

But it was left to fellow departing Saint Coote, who is joining Hull KR next year, to show nerves of steel and defy the pressure and swirling wind to give them a lead to defend with all their hearts for the last 14 minutes.

Afterwards Woolf praised the contribution of the pair: “James Roby said in his interview before the game that it is no co-incidence that these two blokes have come along and in the three years they have been here the club have won three Premierships.

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“It is obviously not all down to them, it is a collective thing – but they are a big part of that.

“When you bring in players, particularly overseas players, you need to know that they are going to fit into the group and offer you something on the field and be good people off it and buy into everything that St Helens is about.

“That is exactly what Kev has done and what Lachlan has done – and that is why they have had success.”

The pair will leave big boots to fill, but Woolf is confident that the club’s recruitment policy has this in hand.

It is not the first time this side has had to evolve since 2018, and it helps that Jack Welsby - who will replace Coote in the number 1 jersey, has accumulated priceless experience.

“Replacing them is difficult but we are comfortable with the fact that we have outstanding kids coming through.

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“Jack Welsby is outstanding and has shown that all year and last year, and came up with some big plays again tonight.

“Him and Lewis Dodd are two of the best kids I have ever worked with and I have been lucky enough to work with some really good kids.

“Along with Joe Batchelor they have shown that they can step into this team and not just replace players, but add their own little bits and parts.

“It is hard to replace really good players and good blokes, but I am very confident in what we are going to be able to do going forward.

“We try to guide the players in the right direction but it is the players that go out and do the work, who drive the culture and have to have that hunger to keep winning and competing.

“There is going to be some transition obviously, we will be a different team next year.

“But we have lost some terrific players over this last two years - guys like Luke Thompson, James Graham, Zeb Taia and Dom Peyroux.

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“We make sure that the guys we bring are exactly like a Kev or a Lachlan, and add to the group on and off the field.

“We also have players coming through with the work ethic and culture ingrained in them [and they] have come through our system and they are going to come out and compete just as hard as this year’s crop of players.”