Veteran Wellens bows out

Published: Wednesday 24th June 2015 by The News Editor

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Long-serving St Helens full-back Paul Wellens has announced his retirement at the age of 35, bringing his distinguished 18-year professional playing career to an end.

The former club captain, who led Saints to their 14-6 Grand-Final win over Wigan at Old Trafford last October, has decided to hang up his boots after failing to overcome a hip injury which requires major surgery.

Wellens, who made the announcement at a press conference at Langtree Park, made the last of his 495 appearances for the club in their 12-4 Super League defeat at Wigan on Good Friday.

“It was an extremely tough call to make but ultimately it’s the right one,” Wellens said. “My quality of life has been affected by the injury and common sense has to prevail.”

Wellens, who will join the St Helens coaching staff, added: “I’ve exhausted every avenue in a bid to get myself fit and the club could not have done more for me.

“I had injections last year to get through it – which was more than worth its while when you consider what we achieved – but in the early stages of this year I started to struggle with it again and that culminated with me leaving the field at Wigan on Good Friday.

“It is the nature of the sport; I made my debut at 18 and played until 35 so in the grand scheme of things I can’t grumble.

“I will now have substantial surgery on my hip as it is having an effect on my quality of life. Small things like being able to kick a football around with my son, I can’t do that so I have to get it right and focus on the next stage of my life.”

A one-club man, Wellens won every club and individual honour going since making his senior debut as a teenager in 1998 and was a key figure alongside Paul Sculthorpe, Keiron Cunningham and Sean Long as Saints dominated the game at the start of the Super League era.

His medal haul included five Challenge Cups, five Grand Finals and two World Club Challenges while he was named Man of Steel in 2006 and also claimed the prestigious Lance Todd and Harry Sunderland Trophy man-of-the-match awards.

His record of 439 Super League appearances was recently beaten by Leeds captain Kevin Sinfield while he finishes on 199 tries in Super League.

After losing the full-back spot to Jonny Lomax at his club at the start of the 2014 season, Wellens, back in his old squad number 17, demonstrated both his loyalty and his versatility by playing a key role in their run to Old Trafford last season, appearing in a variety of positions from full-back to loose forward.

After handing over the captaincy to Jon Wilkin at the start of the season, he was a tryscorer in the stand-off role at Wakefield in March but made only three more appearances before his hip injury recurred.

Saints chairman Eamonn McManus said: “Paul goes down as one of the greatest players and leaders in the history of the club. He has won every honour in the game, and more, during his staggering 17 years of success with the Saints.

“In particular, I would point out his captaincy years. He assumed this at a very challenging time for the club when we had lost a number of world-class players who had either retired or had left the club and at a time when we had the disruption of a year playing at Widnes and then a move to a new home in St Helens.

“He drove the team and the club forward and into a new era which started with a remarkable Grand Final win against the odds at Old Trafford last year. The emotion etched on his face at the end of that triumph will forever be remembered.

“I’m sure that Paul will be integral to the future success of the club in his new coaching career.”

Wellens won 20 caps for Great Britain from 2001-07 and also played 11 times for England, including both the 2000 and 2008 World Cups.

Published: Wednesday 24th June 2015 by The News Editor

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