DON’T expect to automatically regain your first-team places without a fight.
That’s the clear message to two Saints internationals who started the new Super League season as first choice half-backs, and at the time seemingly lacking any kind of healthy competition for their places.
It came from assistant coach Kieron Purtill as he sung the praises of Lee Gaskell and Jonny Lomax following another midfield masterclass against Bradford Bulls at the Stobart Stadium on Friday night.
The two 20-year-olds stepped up to the plate after a groin injury sidelined Leon Pryce, and Kyle Eastmond was absent due to an internal suspension – throwing down the ‘oust us if you can’ gauntlet to their more illustrious team-mates.
“They are both quality youngsters and will be hard to shift,” admitted Purtill.
He added: “At the start of the season, Leon and Kyle didn’t appear to have any real challengers.
“But now we have four players capable of filling the half-back berths – and that can only be good as far as competition is concerned.”
Eastmond made a surprise return to action only hours after his suspension had been lifted, scoring one of the tries in the reserves’ 36-14 victory over Bradford on Friday night.
The club had found the 21-year-old scrum-half guilty of serious misconduct following an internal investigation.
The case centred on rude and offensive gestures made to fans at the home game against Harlequins on Friday, March 11.
A club statement said: “The matter has been dealt with in accordance with our internal disciplinary procedures, and the player has also been warned about his future conduct.
“As a result, Kyle’s suspension from the club is now lifted.
“We will not be making any further comment on this matter – and no comments will be accepted on the club’s official website.”
It didn’t, however, stop a section of the crowd giving him some verbal stick during his 50-minute stint for the reserves, an appearance which Under-20s coach Ian Talbot insisted had been pre-planned.
n Wellens’ World – Page 79