SAINTS returned to pre-season training this week after a six-week break since the Grand Final.

The Star’s Mike Critchley caught up with coach Kristian Woolf.

MC: Does the warm afterglow of Old Trafford sustain the players on these first cold winter mornings back in training?

KW: I guess it does and that is where we want to get to again and you always want that feeling that a Grand Final brings.

We need to make sure we are just as hungry and want to work just as hard to have that again.

MC: Can explain the purpose of the staggered return for the squad?

KW: We have had one of the biggest turnovers we have had for a number of years with new players coming in and some being elevated from the Academy.

The new blokes started on Monday – and the idea is we get them in by themselves so we can spend a little bit more time on them and work a bit closer with them so that they become a little bit more accustomed to how we do things, what our standards are and how everything is going to work and where they fit in.

Wednesday was the start for the majority of the squad and they have all had programmes over the break.

It is not about bringing them in to hammer them straight away, but seeing where their bodies are at, get them moving a little bit.

Pre-seasons are tough and some of our toughest work will be just around the corner.

Any of the guys who were part of the England games will come back to training next Wednesday – they get more break because they kept playing for a fortnight afterwards.

MC: What do need to get into the players this next couple of months?

KW: Pre-season is about getting players as fit as you can get them and as strong.

There is also a lot of emphasis on building skill and how you want to play.

They are very different to the old days of not touching a football until Christmas.

We do big loads of skill-work and skill development as well as looking at how we want to play footy and getting a basis down for how we want to look at the end of next year.

It is about doing the hard work to try and get there and be at your best at the business end of the year.

St Helens Star:

It is not a case any more of the players going off for their break and doing nothing and starting the pre-season from scratch to get fit again.

We ask the players to come in at a higher level of fitness and we give them some programmes to do.

The first week is about seeing exactly where they are and how well they have stuck to the programmes they have been given. In the past they have been really good.

After that, we accelerate it from there.

St Helens Star:

MC: Are you happy with your first look at the new blokes at Saints?

KW: Yes, really impressed with what they have done in the first couple of days and they have all obviously worked hard in the off season and come in in a really good condition and where we need them to be so that we can build on that for the pre-season.

There is an exceptional skill level through the group as well.

I have been happy with what I have seen so far.

St Helens Star:

MC: It is a strong squad, with plenty of depth and and raises a fair bit of intrigue as to where everyone will play?

KW: There are a couple of things there. We needed to get the squad younger.

Over the last couple of years we have had guys at the ends of their careers and when you do that you need to bring in younger guys who are going to be able to fill those shoes and bring their own talent and identity to the team.

That has certainly been a part of it. We have had salary cap restraints, but we think we have strengthened

We have managed to do that but in a way that gives us more depth and the potential to be as strong a team.