St Helens: Australian coach Nathan Brown now at the helm at Langtree Park
St Helens will be hoping Australian Nathan Brown is the man to finally lead them to Grand Final glory again.
Last Updated: 01/02/13 2:26pm
Well, at least Saints didn't have to suffer Grand Final heartache again. They came close to reaching Old Trafford for a sixth year in a row, a defeat in the qualification semi-finals to Warrington ending a topsy-turvy season that had seen them switch coaches.
Royce Simmons had begun the campaign in charge and all seemed to be going according to plan when they looked to make it four games unbeaten with a 28-6 lead against the Catalan Dragons at home.
However, the Dragons came roaring back to win at the death and everything seemed to unravel from there. Defeats to Huddersfield and Hull followed and after going down to Bradford in the rain, Royce was rolled out of Langtree Park.
In his place came Mike Rush, who reluctantly became the head coach on a temporary basis. He had the desired impact, too, starting with a 46-6 thrashing of reigning champions Leeds on home turf. It was then confirmed soon after that Nathan Brown would take over for 2013 and beyond.
The only trouble for Rush came against Wigan - the Warriors won the Easter derby at Langtree Park and then produced a scintillating first-half display at Magic Weekend to get the better of their arch rivals. Saints did win the last encounter; though they then had to watch their neighbours receive the League Leaders Shield afterwards.
A win away at Warrington in the first round play-offs suggested they could make the now-familiar trip to Manchester. Instead the Wolves won the second meeting 36-18, handing St Helens a sixth home loss of the year.
Ins and outs
Brown will have a desire to put behind him a rather messy departure from Huddersfield, and he has a superb squad packed full of international talent at his disposal to try and get Saints their first Super League title since 2006.
The Australian knows that if it ain't broke, there's no need to fix it. A trio of new players have arrived, the biggest name amongst them being Willie Manu. The Tongan forward adds extra power to a pack that has lost the experienced Chris Flannery.
Jordan Turner has followed his former Hull team-mate to St Helens, becoming a direct replacement for Michael Shenton, who still had a year to run on his contract but was allowed to return to Castleford.
Alex Walmsley is the other fresh face, and you could be forgiven for not knowing much about him. The young prop has made a meteoric rise in the game and makes the move to Super League after a stellar season with Batley Bulldogs under the stewardship of John Kear.
Like Flannery, Shaun Magennis has announced his retirement while Jamie Foster - who was a first choice on the wing at the beginning of the last season, but ended it on loan to Hull - has been allowed to move on to Bradford.
Andrew Dixon will come up against his old employers in the top flight having made the switch to Salford, while Scott Hale and Danny Jones have dropped down a division in the search for regular first-team rugby.
Danny Powell is a 23-year-old Saints fan who has been following the club since his dad first took him to Knowsley Road back in 1996. He was a regular at games up until this season, as he now resides in Austria. His favourite ever Saints are Paul Sculthorpe and Keiron Cunningham.
Here are his thoughts on the season ahead...
"After our first season at Langtree Park, and with us now being used to our surroundings we must turn our new home in to a fortress and make the opposition dread coming here like they did going to Knowsley Road.
If Saints are to be successful this year then it will be our attack which will determine where we will be come October. Over the years we have been known as "the entertainers" of SuperLeague, but last year our over reliance on Roby cost us, we became too one dimensional and our once feared and famous style of rugby league turned predictable and too easy for the top clubs to deal with in the big games.
Nathan Brown has been brought in to change our fortunes. Already talk out of the camp is encouraging; he's spoken about where we went wrong last year, most notably our very average kicking game and sort to change that by bringing back the youngster Lee Gaskell to partner Jonny Lomax.
We have recruited well this off-season, too, Manu will add more attacking quality to our pack and big things are expected from Alex Walmsley, he's impressed in the friendlies so far and looks like a real handful.
Add the new recruits to the likes of Tony Puletua, Sia Soliola and Roby and we have a pack which is more than a match for any team in the league.
In Turner we may finally have that attacking centre we have been lacking since Matt Gidley, with no disrespect to Shenton who was unlucky with injuries; whilst his defence was solid his attacking play was only shown in glimpses.
Lance Hohaia being moved from the half backs to the utility role will be invaluable for us. We will be able to rotate Roby and it will give us another style of play from the dummy half position, also if needed he can cover at full-back or No.6, if injuries hit us.
It could take a few rounds for Saints to get going but if Gaskell and Lomax can form a good partnership and with our pack being so strong then top four should be the absolute minimum for us. As usual at Saints, anything other than a Grand Final or Challenge Cup win will be seen as a disappointing season."