Paul Wellens reckons James Graham should be in the running for the Golden Boot award as the world’s best player.
Saints skipper Wellens played alongside the England ace before Graham headed to the Australasian NRL and coached him during the recent Four Nations tournament.
And after the prop forward’s barn-storming showing for England, Wellens believes Graham will be among the six-player shortlist announced on Friday.
“I played with James a lot and when he went to the NRL a lot of people asked me how he would do,” said Wellens.
“He did exactly what I expected him to do, which is play superbly and dominate other teams’ forwards.
“I’m not surprised by the high regard in which he is held. He is a phenomenal player.
“And he is a champion fellow. I have never met a more competitive individual. He produces the same level of performance every week, and in that he’s a bit like James Roby.
“Both of them play to such a high standard that some people can take them for granted.”
Wellens says he had hoped Graham’s current club, Canterbury Bulldogs, would win the NRL Grand Final - thus bringing Graham back to St Helens for his first game at Langtree Park.
Instead, Saints will face champions South Sidney on February 22 to contest the World Club Championship - a fixture Wellens is relishing.
“South Sidney will be a huge challenge, even without Sam Burgess,” he said.
“The way they go about their business is very impressive. We are going to have to front up to that aggressive, in-your-face style.
“But the Saints fans will pack Langtree Park and people will come from all over the country to see the game.”
Meanwhile, Wellens admits the forthcoming season may well be his last for the club he has served with such distinction before he hangs up his boots.
He added: “I have a job getting into the team now, but I’ll turn up to pre-season and give my best. It’s more likely to be my final season but I won’t make any definite decision until June or July.
“I have been treating every season as though it would be my last for quite a few years but I haven’t felt like retiring yet.”