Wellens expecting to win trophies
St Helens captain Paul Wellens believes his side are geared up to end their barren run by lifting silverware in 2014.
It is six years since the five-times Super League champions last won a trophy, and last season they finished outside the top three for the first time since 2004.
However, the signing of specialist scrum-half Luke Walsh and the addition of some giants in the pack has raised expectations and earmarked Wellens' men as genuine title challengers as they prepare for their opening game at Warrington Wolves tomorrow.
"I think we've assembled a strong squad," said the veteran Wellens, who is starting his 16th season with his home-town team. "When you play for this club, there are expectations.
"We expect to get to finals and to win trophies. It's been a long time since we've done that but those expectations have never changed and nor should they."
Walsh, recruited from Penrith Panthers to provide the missing piece in the jigsaw, will make his First Utility Super League debut at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, and Wellens is also looking forward to seeing former Wakefield Trinity Wildcats prop Kyle Amor in the red V.
The 6ft 2in Amor has been recruited, along with Samoan heavyweight Mose Masoe and Hull KR beanpole Richard Beaumont, to add much-needed size to the Saints pack and that, according to Wellens, is set to bring out the best in England hooker James Roby.
"A lot of the successful sides I've played in in the past have been quite big, whether you go back to the days of Apollo Perelini, Vila Matautia and Sonny Nickle or latterly with the likes of Jason Cayless, Paul Sculthorpe and Paul Anderson," Wellens said.
"Sometimes size can't be under-stated. You need big players to get you forward and we've got that, not just with Mose, but with Alex Walmsley, Kyle Amor and Rich Beaumont.
"We're quite a big team this year and with one of the best nines in world rugby, I'm sure he will be relishing the chance to play off the back of that."
Masoe and Beaumont must wait for their Saints debuts while Warrington start with four players on the injury list in forwards Simon Grix, Ben Harrison and Paul Wood and new full-back Matty Russell.
With Adrian Morley and Garreth Carvell having moved on, the Wolves' pack will be virtually unrecognisable from the one that played in October's Grand Final but the arrival of former New Zealand international Roy Asotasi will help to provide much-needed experience.
Warrington must also learn to win without Lee Briers, the wily playmaker who was forced to retire through injury in the close season, but newly appointed co-captain Ben Westwood believes his side can justify their title favouritism.
"It's hard for any team that loses those kind of players but we've brought some quality players in and we've got some real good youngsters coming through who have been chomping at the bit for some time now and they are ready," Westwood said.
"There are still some old heads here, with the likes of Micky Higham and Michael Monaghan, so I feel we have a good combination."
Tomorrow's game marks the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Halliwell Jones Stadium and Westwood, readying himself for his 13th season at the club, knows a derby victory would be a fitting way to celebrate the milestone.
"It's massive," he said. "It's a fantastic rivalry and we've been getting the better of them in the last few years. We're looking forward to it, there is no bigger way to start the season off.
"We've got a few big games coming up - Leeds away and there is Wigan in there somewhere early on - so we'll take the big guns early and make a statement for everybody else."