What could have been

Daniel Anderson leaves St Helens just two games short of immortality.

Last year’s Grand Final defeat to Leeds was bad enough, but one can only imagine the heartbreak of the Kiwi coach, losing a second consecutive Grand Final in his farewell match.

In just over three years at the club, Anderson has overseen some of the finest rugby league the town has ever produced.

In his first full season, Saints won the treble – defeating Huddersfield 42-12 in the Challenge Cup Final, and won the league leaders shield and the Super League Grand Final, 26-4 over Hull.

Saints won the Challenge Cup again in both 2007 (beating Catalans 30-8) and 2008 (beating Hull 28-16) as well as the league leaders shield, but two Grand Final defeats to Leeds have cost them a possible treble treble.

Had those 160 minutes panned out differently, we may be talking about this Saints team being the best in history. Anderson has left his mark, however, and his replacement Mick Potter has his work cut out filling the former New Zealand Warriors’ coach’s shoes.

With players like Keiron Cunningham and Sean Long reaching the end of their careers, and the recent retirement of Paul Sculthorpe, the next few years will be a transitional period for Saints, not only on the pitch but off it.

The club are hopeful that their tired looking ground will soon be history, with plans for an exciting new 18,000 capacity stadium on the outskirts of the town already in place.

On the pitch, Potter will have to find a way of replacing the irreplaceable, and will no doubt look to two Saints youth products, James Roby and James Graham, to provide inspiration for more youngsters to push for the first team. It’s worth noting that the two stars mentioned have claimed the Man of Steel gong in the past two years, while another Saints product, Paul Wellens, won it in 2006.

With players like Kyle Eastmond, Steven Tyrer and Gareth Frodsham coming through, the talent is there for Saints. It’s up to Potter to now integrate them alongside experienced pros like Cunningham, and help develop the youngsters enough to ensure that they can make the step up in the next few years.

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