As dust begins to settle on the announcement of Paul Wellens’ retirement as a rugby league player, his thoughts are turning to the future.
The debilitating hip condition which plagued the last 12 months of an enviable career can finally be addressed without fear of compromising match fitness.
He hopes to undergo surgery as early as next week to repair the damage of nearly 20 years playing at the most demanding level of the sport, and resume an active lifestyle with his young family, and new role in the Saints coaching set-up.
“It’s a new kind of operation really, It’s called hip surfacing,” Wellens explained to the Reporter.
“They line the head of femur with a thin metal. There are other things going on in there too, there’s a piece of bone broken away from the pelvis so that needs screwing back down.
“It doesn’t sound the best but that obviously needs sorting out. There are other things that need tidying up so it’s quite a invasive surgery and three to four months rehabilitation period.”
The scale of the operation means multiple Super League, Challenge Cup and World Club Challenge winner Wellens will need time to rehabilitate, but despite the impact his condition has on things most take for granted, such as being an active parent or even walking, in the manner typical of the former England and Great Britain star, he is refusing to grumble.
“I’ve been really fortunate in my career with injuries but with this it’s not just your stereotypical injury,” he said.
“It’s something that has impact on my everyday life and just something simple like walking, sleeping at night or something simple like having a kick around with the boys - it’s become more debilitating as time’s gone on as well and it just got to the point where I needed to be sensible about things.
“If there was a scrap of a chance I thought I could have got back out on the field without having this surgery I would have taken that opportunity but the more and more time went on,the worse I felt and the more debilitating it bacme so I had to be sensible about it.”
Tributes flooded in for the 35-year-old who has known no other way of life than serving his hometown club and his country.
From respected figure in the game, past and present, to fans, friends and family, it is clear the footprint left by Wellens on the sport and his club are in the same league as the likes of Alex Murphy, Vince Karalius, Paul Newlove and Mal Meninga.
“I don’t know if normality is the right word but we’re getting back to things calming down,” Wellens said, typically humble in the wake of a flood of praise.
“I was just really taken aback by the level of publicity it was getting so I did expect there to be some reaction but nothing like there was.
“Obviously I’ve been at the club a long time and played in successful teams and things like that.
“The supporters were unbelievable really during that period. Not just supporting on match day but being a local boy and being around the town you live constantly with the pressure of playing for St Helens. But the people have been great with me.”
Wellens hopes to get his teeth into coaching with Saints’ under-19s set-up in December, when their pre-season starts and he is coming through the final phase of getting over his surgery.
In the meantime, Wellens acknowledged how support from wife Rachel and being with his children Harry, nine, Ava, six and Joseph, six months, has helped him - not just since retiring.
“(Rachel has been) extremely supportive - not just now but throughout the duration of my career really,” he said.
“She was probably relieved more than anything - she sees the day to day - me trying to drag myself around the house and tossing and turning of a night.
“She sees that first hand so I think she’s relieved that I’m going to get the surgery done and get myself back to normal again - or as normal as I can.
“She was obviously very supportive in me trying my hardest to get myself fit and back playing.
But Harry, who celebrates his 10th birthday in August, put his own stamp on giving a nod to the achievements of his dad.
The youngster posted a picture of Wellens on his Instagram account, joking he thought his dad was being ‘soft’ when first suffering with his injury.
“Harry - it’s his own cheeky way - he’s master of the art of the backhanded compliment,” laughed Wellens.
“All the boys follow him on Instagram. He has them giggling - in his own unique way.
The Thatto Heath under-10s player is following in his dad’s sporting footsteps, playing rugby as well as football - and joins his dad watching Manchester City - though his heart belongs in the 13-a-side game.
“He enjoys it. He likes the camaraderie with his team mates and stuff.
“He comes watching City with us.
“He enjoys that as well. he’s into the sport - he likes that side of things and watches Saints as well and he probably enjoys the Saints games most.”