Paul Wellens’ playing career could be over, Saints coach Keiron Cunningham fears.
The full-back has been out of action due to a degenerative hip condition since leaving the field during Saints’ visit to Wigan on Good Friday – and he is facing an anxious wait to see what the future holds.
Although Cunningham is hoping Wellens, who is five games away from making his 500th Saints appearance, can play again in the famous red vee, he fears his player is looking at life after rugby.
“Wello’s probably not looking great,” said Cunningham.
“He’s just got to wait and get the final verdict from a guy in London who is supposedly the best hip guy in the country.
“We’re just going to have to wait and see what this guy says but I don’t think it’s looking the best news for Wello.”
Wellens revealed exclusively to The Reporter last week that he was no closer to making his return to the field, and admitted he is finding moving around painful.
It’s a situation which Cunningham can relate to, himself falling just four games short of 500 for Saints in a 16-year playing career.
“We have to be sensible with what we do with Paul. I’m living through the turmoils of rugby league myself at the moment and it’s not pretty,” admitted the coach.
“Life after rugby is not good for rugby players – especially players who push themselves through injuries.
“You get old and it hurts a little bit more and every morning it goes from half an hour to an hour to two hours to try and get your body moving but that’s the rewards of playing rugby.
“And Paul will be exactly where I’m at and where every old time rugby player is at – he’s pushed his body through almost car crashes every week and he’s going to suffer for that.”
Wellens could face a type of hip surgery alien to people of his age as a result of the years of putting his body on the line for his sport and his club – and Cunningham says Wellens’ dedication to his team is part of what makes him a club legend.
“Maybe he’ll need something doing with his hip that a lot of people in their 30s wouldn’t dream of getting done,” he revealed.
“That’s 60-odd year old surgery what he’ll be needing to get done.
“But he’s just a warrior. He’s one of the greatest players to have ever pulled on a Saints shirt for what he does for the club and the influence he has on the team.”
Even if Wellens does have to call time on a career which has seen him lift multiple Challenge Cups, Super League titles and World Club Challenges, Cunningham couldn’t imagine the club without him – and is sure the former England star would still be able to contribute to the club’s future success.
“It’s a sad time really. If Wello does finish it’s another legacy of our club which has moved on,” said the coach.
“Hopefully his influence will help the new ones through.
“We have final verdicts and boxes to be ticked before we make any official or unofficial verdict on Paul so everybody knows and everybody is hurting for Paul.
“We see him there and he’s trying his best to get out and battle on and there are not many people in the game who would do that for a club –a lot of people would retire, pick up the cash and move on.”
Wellens is one of only three players to have won the Lance Todd Trophy, Harry Sunderland Trophy and Man of Steel Awards and Cunningham will want him to influence the future.
“It would be a crying shame if he wasn’t involved in the club in some area,” he said.