Amid the seasoned internationals and rising starlets of an ultra-consistent St Helens side is one player that epitomises their strengths more than any.
Loose forward Morgan Knowles is finally receiving recognition for his unstinting, relentless performances in the middle of the field as Kristian Woolf’s team hunt yet more silverware.
The 24-year-old rarely lets his performances dip below an eight or nine out of 10 and is the ultimate players’ player. “He’s unbelievable,” team-mate Alex Walmsley said. "He’s someone we all hold in high regard and really appreciate because of what he brings to our side.
“He does so much of the unnoticed things that the average fan might not look upon or appreciate. But us as players and as a team, we can’t hold him any higher.
“When he’s on the field he makes my job a lot easier because he’s just mopping up everything. For me he will be one of the best in Super League for the next five years.”
England coach Shaun Wane clearly thinks the same way, persuading Knowles to switch from Wales for this year’s postponed World Cup and sparking notions he could be the long-term replacement for previous national skipper Sean O’Loughlin.
Barrow-born Knowles has a typical rugby league, and Cumbrian, attitude to his own performances this year. “I’ve not been too bad – but there’s definitely a fair bit of improvement and things for me to work on,” he responded.
Ask him about the team’s displays over the past four seasons and Knowles is more forthcoming. He said: “The standards that we set, we all live by.
“Occasionally you drop below those either in matches or in and around training, and the key thing is being accountable and getting picked up by the playing group and coaching staff.
“It’s a culture that’s been built and set, and over the last four years, the team hasn’t lost many matches. We’re proud of that, and it all comes back to those standards that we set.
“We’ve got a really good group of blokes, there aren’t any bad eggs in there. And Woolfy is great, a real honest coach – there’s a real clarity of what he wants and expects from you.”
On Saturday Saints aim to take the race for top spot to the final weekend of the season against leaders Catalans in the pick of the Magic Weekend clashes.
Knowles added: “The League Leaders’ Shield might have fallen away in importance and value a bit with the Grand Final being the big one, but it does show who has been the best team over the course of the season. It’s still a big thing and we’ve still got an opportunity to go and win it this season.”
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