Mike Rush says Anthony Laffranchi has been St Helens' most consistent performer
St Helens coach Mike Rush has hailed the impact of Australian Anthony Laffranchi as a replacement for James Graham.
Last Updated: 27/09/12 7:39am
The former Wests Tigers and Gold Coast back rower was signed by coach Royce Simmons 12 months ago as a replacement for Graham, who won the Man of Steel award in 2008.
Graham was regarded as one of Super League's most influential players and the end to his nine-year stay with Saints to join the Canterbury Bulldogs left the club with a massive void to fill.
It has been a season of ups and downs for the Langtree Park side after Simmons was dismissed following a below-par start, a task Rush and Kieron Cunningham have picked up and carried out with distinction.
There were big expectations on Laffranchi's shoulder to replace Graham, however, Rush believes the 30-year-old has been the club's most consistent performer.
"Boof (Laffranchi) has been outstanding," said Rush. "He's probably been our most consistent player, along with Sia Soliola.
"He's an absolute model professional and a tremendous leader, at training and on the field. The attitude he displays to the younger players is phenomenal.
"He was a real good signing by Royce. He has been a major coup for us and someone I hope will stay at the club for the long term because he's got a few years left in him."
Laffranchi, who won five caps for Australia and played against England for the Exiles this year, admits there was pressure on his shoulders, but not a challenge he was going to shy away from.
"There's probably a bit of pressure filling James' boots but, as a player, you want to test yourself," he said.
"He's been a quality front rower for the club for a long period of time and I was excited by the challenge of coming over here and putting my own stamp on the game and challenging myself again in a different league.
"Replacing a quality player was something I was thriving on. I'm happy with the way things have turned out. I've really enjoyed my time at Saints.
"I said from the beginning I wasn't going play like James Graham, I'll play like Anthony Laffranchi and bring my aspects to the game."