PAUL Wellens has always been more famous for his try-saving than his try-scoring exploits.
But the Saints skipper goes into Saturday’s Grand Final with only two of his St Helens team-mates in front of him in this year’s scoring stakes.
The former Great Britain full-back claimed his 14th try of the season, and the 200th of his career, in Saint’s 26-18 semi-final win over Wigan last Saturday to earn the praise of his coach Royce Simmons.
The score lifted the 31-year-old up to seventh place in the club’s list of all-time try-scorers with 189, overtaking Alan Hunte and putting him within sight of another notable winger Anthony Sullivan.
Of more importance to the 2006 Man of Steel was the victory which took St Helens into a sixth consecutive Grand Final, but Wellens admits he has re-discovered some of the best form of his distinguished career at the most important time of the year.
“I had a few injuries at the start of the year but I feel the more games I’ve played back to back, my form has just continued to get better,” he said.
“I’ve been delighted with my last couple of games and hopefully I’ve got another big performance in me.”
Wellens will be appearing in his ninth Grand Final aiming for his fifth success and desperately hoping to avoid a fifth straight defeat.
Three of those defeats have been at the hands of Saturday’s opponents, Leeds Rhinos, but Wellens is playing down talk of revenge.
“We’re just happy to be in the Grand Final,” he said. “That was our aim and whoever we played it was going to be tough. Leeds have shown they are a great side.
“The defeats are part of our history and obviously we were disappointed with them but this is 2011 and there are new coaches and new players.
“We honestly don’t worry about what’s gone on in previous years.”
Only Leon Pryce has made more Grand Final appearances than Wellens and he will be hoping for a recall from injury and illness when coach Royce Simmons names his 19-man squad today.
Saints could have as many as six players appearing in their first Grand Final, with Gary Wheeler hoping to get the nod alongside regulars Lee Gaskell, Tom Makinson, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Scott Moore and Michael Shenton.
Stand-off Gaskell, 20, is assured of his place alongside fellow rookie Jonny Lomax after they deputised superbly for sidelined first-choice half-backs Pryce and Kyle Eastmond.
Wellens is full of admiration for the contribution of the youngsters and is quick to praise his coach for the bold selections.
“I think Royce deserves a lot of credit,” he said. “Neither had played a lot of first-team football at the start of the season and now they’re playing half-back in the Grand Final.
“Occasionally young players make mistakes and take the wrong options when they come into the first team but Royce continued to show faith in them and, as the season went on, they have grown more comfortable in their roles.”