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James Roby becomes St Helens' record appearance maker after playing in 532nd game for the club

St Helens hooker James Roby broke the club's all-time appearances record, which had stood for 45 years, with his 532nd game in their 26-12 comeback win over Salford on Saturday; Head coach and former team-mate Paul Wellens hailed Roby as "the greatest player in Super League history"

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Hooker James Roby, who is retiring at the end of the season, received a guard of honour on his record 532nd appearance for hometown club St Helens

St Helens coach Paul Wellens paid tribute to Super League's "greatest player" James Roby after the Saints captain made his club-record 532nd appearance.

Roby, who will retire at the end of the 2023 season, eclipsed Kel Coslett's mark of 531 matches for St Helens in their 26-12 comeback win over Salford on Saturday afternoon.

Wellens, a former team-mate of Roby, said: "Robes is the greatest player in Super League history and that is undeniable.

"He won Man of Steel in 2007 and I reckon he's had 10 seasons better than that. That just gives an indication of how incredible he is. His brilliance has almost become normality over a 20-year period."

Roby shelved his retirement last season to play on in 2023 but this year will certainly be his last.

Wellens added: "I actually went out for dinner last Saturday with my wife and Robes and his wife. We had a conversation and at no point did I try and persuade him to do another year.

"I think his mind is firmly made up and it's a smart decision on his part. We want him to send him off as a champion later this year."

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'I never thought I would break that record'

The 37-year-old Roby was given a guard of honour as he came onto the field.

He told SaintsTV earlier this week: "To break the record is an amazing achievement. One way I think of it is it's just another game, but when I sit back and relax and maybe hang my boots up I'll realise the enormity of it.

"I never thought I would break that record. At the training ground, we have the all-time achievements list at St Helens and I remember four years ago when I was thinking I was coming to the back end and I thought there was no chance.

"When I decided to go again this year, I'm not going to lie it was a motivating factor, but it was one of those things which is a massive moment for myself."

Coslett, whose record had stood since 1976, added: "I played a lot games. I married a St Helens girl - so I was stuck a little bit! - and it was a good thing.

"I was lucky, because at the time I signed for St Helens there were two other clubs looking for my autograph, but it was St Helens I chose and St Helens I'm glad I chose because they have been good to me.

"That's the importance for the likes of me. I've got a gentleman who played the game thoroughly [breaking my record]."

Picture by Alex Whitehead/ - 31/03/2023 - Rugby League - Betfred Super League - St Helens v Wakefield Trinity - Totally Wicked Stadium, St Helens, England - St Helens’ James Roby celebrates the win.
Image: Roby is set to retire at the end of the 2023 season

Ward: Roby has a 'steely calmness'

Former Leeds Rhinos captain Stevie Ward was among those to pay tribute to Roby as he reached yet another milestone in his storied 19-year playing career.

Ward came up against Roby as an opponent on numerous occasions and compared him to another modern great in former Australia hooker Cameron Smith.

"I'd put him up there with Smith and the reason I'd put him up there is when you're in opposition with James Roby is he has this steely calmness to him and he manages the game," Ward told Sky Sports.

"He's lost a lot of pace at the back end of the career, but the way he manages the game and the way he plays it, the way he brings people on board and manages that performance they take - St Helens are a machine and he's driven that machine for so long."

Sky Sports rugby league pundit and former Great Britain international Phil Clarke believes Roby's approach of staying humble has played a big part in him enjoying such a lengthy playing career at the highest level.

"It's his humility which has helped him get there," Clarke told Sky Sports.

"He told a great story this week that when he played his first game for St Helens, he turned up in his car and the attendants wouldn't let him in - they never believed a player looking so young and small could be playing in the first team.

"He did, of course, making his debut back in 2004 and has gone on to have a sensational career since then."

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