Huddersfield Giants scrum-half Jamie Ellis returns to St Helens tonight admitting he still wonders what might have been if he had stayed with the current Super League champions.
Ellis made just three league appearances for his hometown club in 2009 before leaving Saints for Championship club Leigh Centurions the following year, still aged only 21 but frustrated by a lack of first-team opportunities.
Legendary scrum-half Sean Long had already left for Hull FC but, ironically, the man viewed as his replacement – Kyle Eastmond – would also soon depart for Bath.
“I do think about what could have been,” admitted Ellis, who joined top-four Huddersfield this season after a successful three-year stint with Castleford Tigers.
“I think Lee Gaskell (another Saints Academy player then just 20) ended up playing in the Grand Final the year after I left, and I thought I was always in front of him.
“It was one of those things though; Leigh offered a chance to play first-grade on a weekly basis as opposed to the reserves I was playing at Saints and I don’t regret it as it was one of the best seasons I’ve ever had.”
Ellis caught the eye in the Championship and earned a move to Hull in 2012 but that was short-lived and it was Wheldon Road where his top-flight game really took off.
He played in the Challenge Cup final for Castleford at Wembley last season and reached the top four. Huddersfield snapped him up on a two-year deal and he has formed a thriving pairing with Danny Brough that has seen them lose just one of the last 10 games.
Ellis, 25, said: “I missed three games in a row and it gave me a real kick up the bum.
“You sort of take things for granted getting picked every week but being left out makes you work harder and knuckle down which has done me some good.
“Saints are going to be well up for the game coming off the back of a heavy defeat at Leeds when they went there to win.”
Ellis – who had been at Saints since the age of 13 - knows the Saints head coach well.
He recalled: “When I was coming through, I trained every day with Longy, Paul Sculthorpe and Cunningham which was just phenomenal.”