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St Helens' legend Paul Wellens retires from rugby league after 17-year career

St Helens' Paul Wellens has announced his retirement after a 17-year career Credit: PA Images

St Helens legend Paul Wellens has announced his retirement from rugby league.

The 35-year-old cited an ongoing hip problem as part of his decision to hang up his boots after 495 appearances and more than 1000 points during a trophy-laden 17 years at St Helens.

In that time he won every major domestic honour and capped off a fine career by captaining his side to Grand Final glory last season.

The 35-year-old scored more than 1000 points for the club Credit: PA Images

He will now join former team-mates Keiron Cunningham and Sean Long on the St Helens coaching staff.

In a press conference at the club's Langtree Park home Wellens said:

"I've had an ongoing hip problem for around 12 months and tried my hardest to battle on through. 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."

"I knew something was substantially wrong there and I want the fans to know I have exhausted every angle possible in trying to find a way to get fit and playing. I still feel I can offer a lot to the club if my body would allow me to but sadly I can't."

"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."

"I've had a really good career and last season was a real highlight. I have met some great people, had great experiences and been in an environment which challenges me. I have played in a great town with great people."

"I'd like to thank my family who have been a huge support to me and in particular my parents who have been a constant source of support and my wife Rachel. When you go through tough times like this, or go on tour, she bears the brunt of it and looks after our kids. A lot of people make sacrifices to do what I do."

"I'd like to thank my teammates who have made my career very special. Win, lose or draw the people you meet, the people you play with make it special and they are friends for life."

"Finally, I'd like to thank the supporters as without them we wouldn't have a club. They have been phenomenal with me. In my career I have always done my best and I think the St Helens people appreciate that."

– Paul Wellens
Wellens made his debut for Saints all the way back in 1998 Credit: PA Images

Wellens made his debut for his home-town club in 1998 and was quickly recognised for his strength and versatility.

He made a substitute appearance in the 1999 Grand Final victory over the Bradford Bulls, his first of 10 Grand Final bows.

He would go on to win 5 of them as well as 5 Challenge Cups and 2 World Club Challenges.

Perhaps the pinnacle of it all came late in his career as Wellens guided his side to victory in the 2014 Grand Final with a win over Wigan Warriors.

Players and staff paid their own tributes to Wellens' service.

Head coach and former team-mate Keiron Cunningham said:

"Paul is simply one of the greatest players ever to pull on a Saints shirt. He has the respect of everyone around him and everyone loves and loved playing with him - me included."

"We wanted him to go around again, such is his influence, but the rugby gods have tapped him on the shoulder. His influence on us and what we do is never going to be lost. That is a great thing about this place and the influence great players can have on the Saints without pulling a shirt on."

"His track record speaks for itself with how much he has won and that will never be lost. I wish him all the best."

– Keiron Cunningham, Head coach St Helens
Wellens and team-mates celebrate Grand Final victory in 2014 Credit: PA Images

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 seventeen years of success and 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 a then 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."

– Saints Chairman Eamonn McManus