Brown impressed with new Saints signings

St Helens rugby league club coach Nathan Brown
St Helens rugby league club coach Nathan Brown

NATHAN Brown says he has been impressed by new faces Willie Manu, Jordan Turner and Alex Walmsley after running the rule over Saints’ new signings in pre-season.

The Aussie admits Manu is “a different player” to the one he first coached Down Under with St George Illawarra and is also looking forward to unleashing both Turner and man-mountain Walmsley this season.

He said: “With experience, Willie Manu has made the adjustments in his life to enable him to become one of the more dominant Super League players. He’s a threatening player with the ball in his hands.

“Willie is just someone we feel can help add to the team and he’s a good player because most weeks he plays well.

“Alex Walmsley is doing really well. He’s one of those we’re all excited to see. His pre season has been very good and we’re looking forward to seeing him on the field to see what he can do at Super League level.

“Some players mature a little bit later than others and I think that could have been the case with Alex. But I know the other players would all be very comfortable running out there with him.”

He added: “Even when I was at Huddersfield we had been following Jordan Turner for some time and, when I knew I was coming here, I thought he would be a nice fit.

“He’s never really had a position - I think he has played almost everywhere on the field at some point - but I definitely see his best position at centre.

“He’s a talented young kid.”

Meanwhile, Brown has dropped the clearest hint yet about the players who are high on his agenda to begin Saints’ opening match of Super League XVIII when he revealed his 20-man squad for Jon Wilkin’s testimonial game against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats at Langtree Park on Sunday.

No fewer than 12 of the 13 players who started the friendly fixtures against Huddersfield Giants nine days earlier were first choice again at the weekend.

The only new name appearing on the team sheet to start the match was Josh Perry - replacing fellow prop Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook who dropped to a powerful-looking substitutes’ bench which also featured the vastly experienced Lance Hohahia and Tony Puletua - the latter having missed the opening friendly - seasoned campaigner Ade Gardner, Mark Flanagan and up and coming duo, Alex Walmsley and Joe Greenwood..

And once they are fully fit, no doubt Paul Clough and Gary Wheeler will be knocking at the door, giving Brown a nice but king-sized selection headache to solve if he has a fully fit and healthy squad.

The Aussie said: “We tried to get as near our top 20 players as possible on the park on Sunday and gave 17 or 18 of them as much game time as we could.

“We have to be happy with our overall performance but are conscious that we need to make some gradual adjustments to improve.”

One pleasing aspect is that Saints have only conceded two tries in 160 minutes of pre-season action.

Brown said: “Our goal-line defence looked good again Trinity and we seemed comfortable but there is still a lot of hard work to do before the start of the season.

“It’s still too early to make any real judgements but things have gone well so far.”