SAINTS have already filled the positional hole left by the retirement hooker James Roby, with experienced England number 9 Daryl Clark joining from Warrington.

But they have yet to publicly announce how they will fill Roby’s other key role in the squad – that of club captain.

The veteran hooker leaves big boots to fill on that score – having worn the skipper’s armband for the six trophy-laden seasons since taking over from Jon Wilkin in January 2018.

From the League Leaders’ Shield in 2018 to the World Club Challenge of 2023, and four Super League titles and a Challenge Cup in between, Roby never went a year as captain without lifting a piece of silverware.

St Helens Star: James Roby - Hall of Fame

So who replaces James Roby as St Helens captain for 2024?

Jonny Lomax.

St Helens Star:

The obvious candidate is the vastly experienced half back Jonny Lomax, who has been vice captain and acting skipper when Roby was not on the field.

The 33-year-old has been an integral part of the Saints side since breaking into the team in 2009, playing scrum half, stand off, centre, wing and full back.

An intensely deep thinker on the game, as well as a talented footballer, Lomax has had to overcome considerable adversity during his playing career.

Always one to put the team first, Lomax leads by example – even if that has meant on occasion playing on through injuries.

Hugely respected by his teammates, Lomax ticks all the boxes to lead the team he supported as a boy – and would be another first class homegrown skipper.

Jack Welsby.

Lomax is clearly the favourite, but if coach Paul Wellens wished to make a radical move away from the obvious choice of a natural successor he may be inspired to jump back a generation and take a leaf out of Shaun Wane’s book and appoint Jack Welsby.

It would be a bold move to hand the armband to the prodigious 22-year-old, who led England in the first two tests of the series against Tonga.

A natural reader of the game with an insight that belies his years, Welsby is a player with the world at his feet.

Would additional leadership responsibilities at this stage of his career place too great a burden on his shoulders as continues to develop his craft in an evolving Saints team?

Although with each passing year Welsby’s name goes higher up the NRL hitlist, he will be a Saint for at least the next two years as the club have always had a policy of not selling their best players, no matter who comes knocking.

Welsby has achieved everything at Saints - apart from club captaincy.

The prospect of him graduating into that role eventually could be an incentive to keep him in the red vee in the face of a strong pull elsewhere - but that reason alone would not be a deciding factor.

No matter what happens with the captain’s choice, Welsby will continue to be a key component of the leadership group.

St Helens Star:

Morgan Knowles.

A third likely candidate for consideration in the coveted role is midway between the two on both the age and experience spectrum – Morgan Knowles.

Remarkably the England loose forward will begin his tenth season in the red vee, having made his first team debut as an 18-year-old in a cup tie in 2015.

The 27-year-old Barrovian has been a key component of Saints’ success, leading by example with the aggressive way in which he leads the defensive charge and those hidden one percenters.

Although Knowles’ 2023 campaign was afflicted by a couple of lengthy early season bans – the Good Friday one being more unfortunate than malicious – he finished the season strongly with his work in tandem with Matty Lees being key to the late push up the table.

He even shuffled up to prop to cover the holes in Saints’ front row.

Knowles has already skippered Saints, leading the team out a depleted side in London in 2019, and maybe the responsibility of captaincy is something that would be carried comfortably across his broad shoulders and contribute to his overall game.

Whatever Wellens decides, Saints will not short of leaders across the squad, with Alex Walmsley and Tommy Makinson also vocal members of the leadership group and there to support the man with the armband.

Whoever he picks, the team will be in good hands - and all that will no doubt be announced over the next month or so.