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Page last updated at 16:43 GMT, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

St Helens skipper Keiron Cunningham out to end on high

Keiron Cunningham
Cunningham has scored 167 tries in his 16 years at Saints

St Helens captain Keiron Cunningham is out to end on a high after confirming that 2010 will be his farewell season.

The 33-year-old former Great Britain hooker has twice postponed his retirement in the last two years by signing new 12-month contracts.

But, in Saints' last season at Knowsley Road, Cunningham is intent on a fitting finale - with a Grand Final victory.

"I feel we've got a good enough squad to do that. But this is definitely my last season," said Cunningham.

"I remember Paul Anderson finishing with a Grand Final win. And I'd love to do the same."

After ending up on the losing side against Leeds in the last three season-deciders at Old Trafford, Cunningham knows that an era is truly at an end at Knowsley Road.

He has seen his great friend Sean Long go to Hull, who St Helens face on the opening day of the season.

And Cunningham admits that he now expects to come under pressure for his coveted number nine shirt, from young internationals James Roby and Scott Moore.

Roby spent three years as his understudy, while Moore is back from a season out on loan at Huddersfield Giants.

But, as captain, Cunningham will almost certainly start the season against Hull on Saturday week as hooker.

And, after making his debut in August 1994 at the age of 17, Cunningham vows that that he will not give up his place in the team without a fight.

"Young Scott has come back and Robes is chomping at the bit," said Cunningham. "I feel that they are the best nines in the country and will be the best nines in the country for the next few years so Saints are blessed again.

I'd like to think I was playing well enough to make them play me

St Helens skipper Keiron Cunningham

"They're ready to take over so this is a year for me to help with the transition, to give a bit of guidance.

"I'm not sure how it's going to work. That's up to the coaching staff.

"Obviously, they've got to pick on form and I'd like to think I was playing well enough to make them play me."

Saints coach Mick Potter could solve the problem by having all three hookers in his regular 17-man team, to take advantage of the adaptability of both Roby and Moore.

"You probably need two hookers to start with any way," said Potter. "And we've got the luxury that Robes and Scott can play other positions.

"It's not a major issue. If you look at a couple of other squads, they have three hookers on the books. It's just that ours are a bit more high profile.

"Scott can play 13, six or seven, Robes can play 11, 12, 13 and maybe fill at six and if you want to spend some time with Robes he could maybe fill in at the outside backs."



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