Countdown for new boy Atelea

Jonny Lomax and Travis Burns with Atelea Vea (left)

Jonny Lomax and Travis Burns with Atelea Vea (left)

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New boy Atelea Vea trained at Saints for the first time this week - and is already counting down the days to the moment he gets to pull on the famous red vee shirt for the first time.

The 27-year-old Tongan international, who joined the club after a 12-month spell at the London Broncos, has big boots to fill too, following the departures of Sia Soliola and Wille Manu.

He said: “It’s just great to be here and I am relishing the prospect of playing for one of the best known clubs in the world.

“I can’t wait to make my debut in front of the Langtree Park crowd.

“I played at Saints last season and the crowd were great. It felt like somewhere I wanted to be.”

Vea, who made 22 appearances for the Londoners last season - scoring two tries as they lost their battle against relegation – added: “I have completed my first session with the players now but there’s a great deal more to come in the weeks ahead.”

The back rower, who has signed a two-year deal with the Super League champions, admitted he had received offers from other clubs but, after speaking to chief executive Mike Rush and the then coach Nathan Brown, he felt St Helens was “the right place for me”.

“Saints have a nice culture and environment and that attracted me to sign,” said the 16st, 6ft-tall Australian-born forward, who had spells Down Under with Cronulla. Sharks, Melbourne Storm and St George Illawarra.

It is a far cry from the days when Vea, as a youngster, was told his playing days could be over due to injury.

“It was my shoulder and my ankle and it put me out for a while,” Vea recalled.

“I had to undergo surgery and it was 50-50 whether I could get them fixed or play on.

“Then the doctor took a look and said I’d never play again and told me to hang up my boots. That was quite scary and quite a reality check.”

Fortunately, he was able to overcome that setback and is now looking forward to playing a major part in Saints’ battle to retain their Super League crown and lift the Challenge Cup for the first time since 2008.