SAINTS skipper Jonny Lomax led the team out for the first time in a Super League game since his appointment in the role, scoring one try and setting up another.

And so begins a new chapter in the career of the 33-year-old Billinger, entering his 16th top-flight season in the Red V.

And he has approached both the team and individual challenges with a degree of excitement, hunger and a desire to make the most of his opportunities.

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Team-wise he is excited by the new blood that has come into the squad, with both external recruits and promotion of the youth.

And he believes that will help Saints’ mission to make the big finals after falling short in both the Challenge Cup and Super League semi-finals in 2023 with defeats to Leigh and Catalans respectively.

Lomax said: “I think we have recruited really well and signed some really good players and some experienced players with that too and exciting players.

“Most clubs take the field at the beginning of every year and they want to be involved in the big ones and want to win silverware.

“For ourselves last year it is seen as a disappointment in some regards.

“The reality is we fell short in two semi finals and won a World Cup Challenge.

“We did something that most people thought was impossible and we have to remember that because you know that that was something that I don’t think can be overlooked but we have to move forward.

“We have to stay in the present and the reality is we fell short in two semi-finals.”

Jonny Lomax responding to Saints' title loss 

Lomax is not downbeat about the effect of those losses, and philosophically views those defeats as a pressure release and equally important, a down to measure the ups with.

The Saints skipper said: “Having had time to reflect and with the new people that we have brought in and the new team we have what it actually does is almost gives you a new excitement and a new sense of direction.

“There’s a release of pressure and in some ways if we had done five human nature says you want six.

“And that pressure builds and builds on everyone, not just as a playing group, but everything becomes a bit more expectant and you probably don’t enjoy the ups and downs quite as much as you should, and that’s something that I have realised from my career that the downs make you appreciate the ups even more.

“And I think when I have time to reflect on it, it is not a completely fresh start, because you’re certainly not going to throw away the whole book that has helped you achieve what we’ve achieved over the last few years and left you this short in two semi-finals.

“It certainly gives you a chance to try new things, new ideas you have to change some of your ways, and that gives you a sense of excitement.

“And certainly when you’re going to empower people with new ideas and new behaviours, I think that’s a an exciting time."

Lomax on recruiting Daryl Clark

That feeling of excitement has been added to by a change in personnel, with the departures of legend James Roby, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrrok and Will Hopoate and the arrival of Daryl Clark, Waqa Blake and Matt Whitley.

He said: “I feel as though that freshness and fresh blood and the youth that we’re seeing coming in certainly adds to that excitement.

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“When you sign Daz Clark you know you are signing quality. I have played against him for a number of years and also alongside at international level.

“You know what you are going to get when you play against him.

“You know that he's a serious threat and he is tough. You know he is going to do all the right things, and he's going to keep challenging you constantly.

“And hopefully the rucks are going to get cleaned up and that should lead to an exciting time for Daz and for those running off him.

“And I think that that could be similar for Moses.

“Mo has had a full preseason with us. I think he was fantastic for us last year, but it’s hard to pick up leave and he did that without his family being here too, is that's a tough ask for anybody.

"But we've seen in preseason he has been fantastic and he has got real sense of calm and really, smart and smart him. I think he'll certainly have a huge impact, whether that be at nine, or even in the halves.

“There's a lot to like about Mo this year, alongside Daz and I think that tandem could be really dangerous.

“He is a quality player, you don’t play State of Origin if you don’t do the right things.

“He’s a smart intelligent player.”

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Saints Academy graduates join first team squad.

He was delighted to see some of the young guns elevated from the Championship-winning Academy earn their rewards.

Some of those players will be knocking on the doors for debuts this year, but their value in the opposed training sessions is a daily and weekly contribution to the success of the team.

“We’ve got a lot of young lads here who have worked incredibly hard, they’ve competed incredibly hard in pre-season,” Lomax said.

“They’ve then gone back to look in the friendlies. They have earned a lot of respect from us and the senior boys.

“I think it’s quite a few in there that have got a good chance of making a debut this year and it’s rightly through hard work and all the stuff that they’ve produced throughout the pre-season.

“Jonny Vaughan is someone who is certainly doing the right things around the place and he’ll keep working hard because he has got that mentality in him.

“Some of the other lads as well that are that are going well and continuing to work hard.

“Talent is one thing, but you’ve got to back it up with the right actions, right behaviours and right values and I think that’s something that they are doing and I have been really impressed with them."

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Lomax on playing with broken ribs

Lomax begins the year fully recovered from the fractured and displaced ribs that he sustained in the Leigh game at the end of the year, but battled through to complete every game.

It is an injury that mere mortals struggle to cough with, let alone go out and take impact in 80 minutes of high-intensity.

It sounds gruesome but Lomax explained how and why he soldiered on: “It is a funny one – we talk about tough pre-seasons you kind of become accustomed to them – so it is a daunting word, but the more you do the more accustomed you become.

“In terms of injuries, this is going to sound so wrong, but there's a bit of a weird – sense of pride of being able to battle on in some ways.

“The first time you do a rib, you're a bit like ‘What is this?’ But after you have done a couple of those you become accustomed to it.

“Your body just learns to deal with it. The first half of the game I did it was hard work because it kept getting stuck out of place.

“It sounds awful, it sounds ridiculous, but I was able to pop it back in place, and then go again like and then realise what I could do to keep it in place.

“But then at half time I could get a needle to give me give me a chance to not feel the pain.

“There's ways and means of working through.

“I won’t be the only one that has done this - there's a few of us.

“And I think the most bizarre bit is once one has you kind of have to with a weird peer pressure that doesn’t get said but you feel the need that you have to.”

Lomax had done similar the year before when he ruptured his bicep shortly after Lewis Dodd had been sidelined with a ruptured Achilles.

“I have a bit of a stubbornness about me – I have been told a few times I can’t do something but I go and do it. I am always going to go down fighting.”

The Saints hunters not the hunted

The silver lining within the cloud of losing the title for the first time since 2018 does mean it presents Paul Wellens’ men the opportunity to change, however slightly, what has been a winning formula.

Again, Lomax was philosophical in his response to last year’s heartbreak at Perpignan, and then seeing Saints’ four-year hold on the title relinquished with the trophy going across the Lump.

“I think when you fall short you narrowly miss out that gives opportunity to try new things a bit broader and there’s quite a famous quote: ‘For beginners minds there's many opportunities, many ways to do things, but for an expert there's very few’.

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“And you're probably getting the mindset when you find something that works people like doing what works for them and they can become, all of us in any walk of life, a bit stuck in our ways.

“And that's no different when you play sport. If you find a way that's worked and that you've had success people do that, but then at the same time, the people that are chasing you and trying to combat that and do things their own way.

“So I think now for what hasn't been the case for four or five years now, we are now almost becoming the chaser rather than the chased, and that allows us to try new things.

“We can scrutinise other teams a bit more and watch a bit more footage on them, which gives us a new sense of excitement and a few new ideas to work with.”

How Saints stay hungry for Super League success 

Lomax, as well as the likes of Mark Percival, Tommy Makinson, Alex Walmsley and even the younger crop, have been there and lived the dream at Old Trafford.

But what keeps them hungry, what makes them want to go again with such burning desire and not simply reflect on the glittering collection of winner’s rings in their drawers?

Lomax responded: “It is human nature. No matter what it is, you want more like.

“The reality is that I still feel real good, I still feel real fresh.

“I keep getting told I am this age, but I don't really feel it.

St Helens Star: Jonny Lomax delight

“I still feel like I'm mid 20s and go home I might have an odd moan here and there, but I want to go home and kick a football around with my lad, or I want to pretend to be wrestling with him.

“I still feel like a bit of a kid, that's probably because I get to do what I do, “So I think that there will be a time when it has to come to an end, but hopefully not for a bit yet.

“You know you've only got a limited time to be hungry for those things.

“I think it's probably easier for me to stay hungry in some ways because of the time I've lost.

“Anytime I lost – or lost in any games - I saw that as a missed opportunity because you only get so much time to live out your dream and then I do actually have to go and start a proper life.

“So any chance that I get I don't ever want to miss it.

“I've had to miss some out of my own control.

“So anything that I can control, I'm going to do my best and I think that's probably why my hunger stays at it is.

“The silverware is fantastic, but the memories and the moments that you pick up along that journey and the times you spend with people, your family and the lads after it, they are the things that you remember.

“People say it's almost a bit like a drug, isn't it? You're chasing that feeling - that's the reality of it.

“That extreme high that you have at the end of the Super League season that's not just one night of high, that's like a week initially, then three months, and then off you go again.

“There's not many things that can replicate this – other than the things that are away from rugby league.”