Saints stalwart plays 500th game

St Helens ace Paul Wellens
St Helens ace Paul Wellens

Saints skipper Paul Wellens was given a guard of honour as he stepped out for his 500th top-level game last Friday night.

The 34-year-old has dedicated himself to his hometown club since making his debut in a 36-6 home win over Halifax on August 30, 1998, and has been rewarded for his unswerving loyalty with Challenge Cup, Super League and World Club Challenge titles.

He has also picked up three prestigious individual domestic honours - the Man of Steel accolade, the Lance Todd Trophy and the Harry Sunderland Trophy.

Writing in his captain’s column, he said: “To play 500 professional games is a personal achievement of which I am proud. It shows I’ve had longevity in my career and benefited from playing at such a great club.

“Physically and mentally, I don’t feel I’ve played so many games and this year I am feeling good, still enthusiastic and enjoying being part of a group of players, albeit in a different role than I’ve occupied during the majority of my career.”

Saints coach Nathan Brown hailed Wellens’ achievement as “unbelievable”.

He said: “It’s one thing having longevity, but it’s another being as involved as Wello is in the games and putting his body on the line.

“Being an Aussie, we don’t see people play 500 games in our country. It just doesn’t happen. You hear about guys like Wello, Keiron Cunningham and Kel Coslett and it’s just unbelievable.

“Obviously he’s had a little bit of luck along the way but he always trains well. I know how well he prepares his body. That’s got to play a big part.”

Wellens wasn’t the only player to reach a milestone on Friday night either.

Team-mate Jon Wilkin clocked up his 350th career appearance - including 289 games in a Saints shirt since joining the club from Hull KR.