KC challenges team to become legends

Saints head coach Keiron Cunningham
Saints head coach Keiron Cunningham

Keiron Cunningham has thrown down the gauntlet to his Super League champions, urging them to become icons of a club weaned on success since the switch to summer rugby in 1996.

Cunningham, who was a pivotal figure as a player during many of Saints’ past trophy triumphs, said: “We now have a very good side but to become a great one we have to go on and lift more silverware back-to-back - just like some of our predecessors who earned legendary status at Knowsley Road.

“Given a little bit of luck and if we stay reasonably injury-free, I firmly believe we have the players in the squad to keep us to the forefront of the sport.”

The former Great Britain international hooker said: “As a local lad - and a fan - I fully understand what expectations I face at the club.

“We now have a generation of fans who demand success just as much as we as staff and players do but as a person I don’t feel under any kind of pressure.”

Cunningham is particularly relishing the prospect of seeing Aussie half-backs, Travis Burns and Luke Walsh, in tandem once the latter is fully fit to make his comeback after breaking a leg last season, and hopefully watching his highly talented youngsters fulfil their rich potential.

He said: “Travis already looks phenomenal and once Luke is back we will have two genuine half backs on the park as well as a genuine full-back in Jonny Lomax and an authentic hooker in James Roby, forming arguably the best foursome in their roles in the competition.

“The two Australian lads are great mates off the field, now I want them to show the same kind of camaraderie and understanding on it.”

As for the rising young stars in his ranks, the Saints’ supremo said: “They are all showing signs of improvement with some like Joe Greenwood ahead of schedule.

“I’m really excited about their expectations and this can only be good for the long-term development of the club.”

Many experts are tipping the ‘usual suspects,’ Wigan Warriors, Warrington Wolves and Leeds Rhinos to be Saints’ main challengers for the Super League crown, but Cunningham insists there are other genuine contenders in a competition which he says it getting tougher to win by the year.

He doesn’t rule out a challenge from the likes of Catalans Dragons, who Saints face in their first fixture of the season at Langtree Park on Friday night, last season’s surprise packet Castleford Tigers, the Humberside clubs and ambitious Salford Red Devils.

Most clubs have strengthened their ranks but not everyone will reach the top four and will eventually be blow away.