Daryl Clark is under no illusions about the size of the boots he has to fill as he prepares to pull on St Helens’ famous number nine shirt for the first time in Betfred Super League action this week.
The 31-year-old hooker ended his decade-long stay with Warrington at the end of last season to step into the role vacated by James Roby, who retired after 19 trophy-laden years, with 551 appearances to his name.
Having assumed a role on the coaching staff, Roby’s presence continues to loom large at the Totally Wicked Stadium, but Clark is convinced his best route to emulating even a fraction of his predecessor’s success lies in making the position his own.
Clark told the PA news agency: “I knew the challenge when I signed up for it.
“I know I’m not going to be at this club as long and I’m not going to achieve as much as Robes has done at this club, but hopefully I’ll be part of some success and write my own little part of history.
“I have already spoken to Robes and I’m sure he will be there to give me some tips and advice going forward. But it is important that I am judged by my own performances and not against his.”
Clark’s ambition was echoed by Saints head coach Paul Wellens, who ear-marked him as the man to replace Roby as soon as the stalwart confirmed the 2023 season would be his last, but insisted he had never envisaged a like-for-like replacement.
“If Daryl goes out there to be the best version of himself, he will improve our team,” insisted Wellens.
“I need to be clear on this – it would be absolutely ridiculous of Daryl to go out there and try to be James Roby.
“In James Roby, he’s got someone there to have a chat or give guidance and that’s absolutely fine.
“But he’s also an experienced player in his own right, who knows what the game looks like at the highest level, so I told him to ‘just go out there and be you’ and that’s what I think the players and certainly I will respect.”
Having come through the ranks with his home-town club Castleford, Clark experienced five straight final losses – three in the Challenge Cup and twice in Grand Finals – before finally striking it sixth time lucky, ironically against Saints, at Wembley in 2019.
A recipient of the prestigious Super League Man of Steel in his final season Wheldon Road, he is relishing the task of helping Saints reclaim the trophy-winning status they lost to Lancashire rivals Wigan at the end of last season.
“The general feeling is that we’d been champions for so long and to get knocked off last year put us back chasing – and I think that could be a good thing,” he added.
“The main reason I came to Saints at this point in my career is because I wanted to be involved in the big games and win some silverware and that is what I have every intention of doing in the future.”