MARK Flanagan is tipping Saints to start next season firing on all cylinders.
The second rower finished the season in fine fettle, with a string of strong performances.
And he believes the enforced international lay-off experienced by many of the Saints squad will work in their favour come February 2013.
“We started back two and a half weeks ago, and we quickly got into full swing,” said the former West Tigers ace.
“All the boys are back and we’re getting stuck into it.
“There were quite a few in the frame for England and the Knights, but quite a few of us had little niggling injuries that we needed to get sorted out.
“Being able to get a full pre-season under our belts can only be good.
“In the past we’ve had Jon Wilkin, James Roby and Paul Wellens, who are pretty much the spine of our squad, away on international duty, and it’s hard for a team to begin its pre-season without its key figures.
“We’ll have this time from day one, which will hopefully allow us to build some combinations and gel as a team.”
Flanagan was brought back from Australia by former coach Royce Simmons, who was dismissed just weeks into the season.
“It was a bit strange,” admitted Flanagan. “I kind of felt sorry for Royce in a way. The results weren’t going our way and that was as much down to the players as it was the coaching staff.
“And I felt we were very unlucky in the games that we lost in the lead-up to him leaving. The bounce of the ball wasn’t going our way, but that’s sport and it’s just the way it goes sometimes.
“It’s tough on coaches these days. Di Matteo at Chelsea didn’t last long despite winning two trophies in such a short space of time. “Kez (Keiron Cunningham) and Rushy (Mike Rush) came in and they did a good job, and the team did well under their guidance.
“But different coaches want their teams to play a certain way, and it’s hard when that change comes during a season.
“They came in and they wanted us to play slightly differently to Royce, and that transition takes time.
“Nathan Brown’s going to instil in us how he wants us to play over the next couple of months, and we’ll get used to that and take it with us into the season.”
n SAINTS’ new boy Willie Manu and the club’s mascot, Boots, will be fronting a special Christmas camp for young fans at Langtree Park on Friday, December 21.
Boots and members of the coaching staff will deliver fun-style RL drills and games before Manu answers a wide range of questions and passes on useful tips.
A Saints’ spokesperson said: “After a host of successful camps, it is now a chance for some of our younger supporters to experience elite coaching at Langtree Park.”
The camp will involve boys and girls aged 6-13 in action-packed sessions before traditional Christmas games and the chance to quiz Willie.
The cost of the camp is £35 and includes a £20 voucher for the club superstore on the day, while there is a discount for season ticket holders.
The fun runs from 1pm to 4pm with more information available by telephoning 01744 455050 (option two) or emailing greg@saints rlfc.com.