Yates’ Verdict: St Helens youngsters should benefit from Castleford Tigers loss in long run

Saints were forced to make wholesale changes to their side for the 30-10 defeat at the Mend-a-Hose Jungle.

<p>Jack Welsby is one of the most recognisable names in the St Helens squad. (Picture: SWPix.com)</p>

Jack Welsby is one of the most recognisable names in the St Helens squad. (Picture: SWPix.com)

St Helens boss Kristian Woolf raised a few eyebrows when he bloodied an unprecedented number of young players in Friday night’s Betfred Super League clash at Castleford.

The Australian was on a hiding to nothing as he attempted to shuffle his pack and find the right combination following a spate of injuries, suspensions and general tiredness after a gruelling spell of fixtures.

Apart from his first team coaching staff, I suspect that one of the backroom staff Woolf would have spoken to in advance was academy coach Derek Traynor, who works quietly and efficiently behind the scenes developing the club’s next generation of players - and his past record speaks for itself.

In the last couple of years players like Jack Welsby and Lewis Dodd - now sadly ruled out for the rest of the season due to an Achilles injury - have been drip-fed into the Super League squad and are already being hailed as future super stars, providing they keep their feet on terra firma.

Saints may have finished second best on Friday night - crashing to a 30-10 defeat - but what a great experience for the majority of the lads on view! It’s all part of their learning curve and will be beneficial to them in the long-term.

Some may not fulfil their dreams by spending the rest of their career at the Totally Wicked Stadium but sometimes the grass is greener on the other side of the hill as players like Lee Gaskell, Andre Savelio and Danny Richardson have shown in the recent past.

Still talking about the game in West Yorkshire, no family would have been prouder than the Royles whose 22-year-old son, Sam, was handed the captain’s armband for the first time at senior level.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling which I can’t put into words,” said the second row forward, who has also captained St Helens at scholarship, academy and reserve teams at level.

It also begs the question: is he the youngest player ever to captain the club at the highest level? Maybe the club heritage society can provide the answer.