New season countdown: Alex Walmsley aiming for title hat-trick
Defending Betfred Super League champions Saints made an inauspicious start to the 2020 season -- losing four of their first eight matches.
Warrington Wolves, Sydney Roosters, Huddersfield Giants and Castleford Tigers all got the better of Saints, but in a pandemic-hit year they recovered their composure to topple arch-rivals Wigan Warriors in a belated and never-to-be-forgotten Grand Final at the KCOM Stadium, Hull, in which Jack Welsby plundered a last-gasp try.
Since then both clubs have recruited well and already are being tipped as red-hot favourites to reach the finals again - something which is not lost on Alex Walmsley.
The 30-year-old England international said: ''You only need to look at how the other clubs have strengthened as they try and chase us down.
“Wigan are going to be right up there and I know they fancy themselves – their players are coming out in public and saying they are after the title.
“They won’t be the only ones. Leeds have strengthened and Warrington look dangerous again.
''Mind you, the league as a whole is going to be tougher than ever.''
He added: ''At the same time, we can’t be waiting for mid-season to turn it around and have to be raring to go from the start.
“The boys, who have come in, know what is expected and you can tell during pre-season that they are ready for a difficult campaign.”
Following the drama of last year’s Grand Final win, Walmsley admits he still finds it hard to come down from Cloud Nine following an amazing finish which saw rookie Welsby touch down after the final hooter when Tommy Makinson’s drop-goal attempt rebounded off a post. and left full back Bevan French stranded in no man's land.
Just a few months on and with the 2021 campaign now set to get off the ground this week, Walmsley is still coming to terms with such a stunning ending to his team’s 8-4 victory in Hull last November.
“When I speak about last season’s Grand Final, I always say that it was such a shame that there weren’t 75,000 there to share that moment,” said the England star.
“It was such an unbelievable finish to an unbelievable game and I’m probably still walking on air.
“I have watched the video back quite often with a smile on my face because it was such a tremendous moment.
''Let's hope we can repeat the feat and complete a hat-trick of title wins.''