Saints farewell interview: Juan Pablo Estelles

Juan Pablo Estelles left Saints at the conclusion of last season (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Juan Pablo Estelles left Saints at the conclusion of last season (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Unfortunately for Juan Pablo Estelles, the only fans who really got to see his skills in a Saints shirt were those who turned out to watch the Wanderers on Monday nights.

The Argentina wing was popular among those supporters who ventured to Franklin's Gardens for Prem Rugby A League matches.

Because so often, Estelles could be seen carving defences open with his pace and ability to evade tackles.

But he was not able to translate Monday night magic into weekend appearances as he found his first-team chances limited at the Gardens.

In fact, Estelles, who initially joined on a three-month deal after competing for Argentina in the sevens event at the Rio 2016 Olympics, was only able to make 15 appearances for the black, green and gold during his two seasons at the club.

And now he is considering his next move after being told that he would not be kept on when new head coach Chris Boyd arrives at Saints this summer.

"It's been a great experience for me," Estelles said. "I enjoyed my time there a lot.

"It had its ups and downs and there were frustrating moments, but overall it was a great experience.

"I learned a lot, I met a great bunch of players and made great friends, which is why I play the sport.

"I'm really happy about my time in Northampton.

"It was only for three months initially and I ended up staying for a year and then another year.

"I was really happy to play for the Saints for all that time.

"I've been blessed to play there for two years and to live in the UK."

Estelles is one of the most likeable rugby players you can meet, and he is clearly determined to remain upbeat about his stay at Saints.

But there is no doubt that when he headed off to Spain on holiday and eventually returned to Argentina, he had a feeling of what might have been at Saints.

"I wish I had played more," said the 30-year-old, who helped the Wanderers to win back-to-back A League titles.

"It was frustrating because you do your best, you try your best every day.

"You play for the Wandies, play for the first team when you get the chance and whenever you have the opportunity, you have to take it. Sometimes you do, but it's not enough.

"Sometimes it isn't dependant on you, it's dependant on the coaches or external things that don't involve you.

"There's nothing you can do and that's why it's so frustrating at times.

"A lot of people in the squad play really well for the Wandies and in the Anglo-Welsh Cup but didn't get the chance to play more.

"There's not much more I can say about it.

"Those moments are really hard, really frustrating and you don't know what to do to get that opportunity you deserve.

"But I'm glad I had the players next to me because I couldn't have made it without them."

It has been a theme that there is frustration among the 17 players that are leaving Saints this summer.

Many feel they didn't get a fair crack of the whip at the club during recent seasons, with the black, green and gold desperately seeking momentum at home and abroad.

"It's hard because sometimes you get told you're doing really well and told to keep doing what you're doing, but it gets you nowhere," Estelles added.

"If I kept doing what I was doing, I wouldn't be playing much.

"I was told I was doing really well, I always gave 100 per cent, but the opportunities never came again.

"Sometimes you're doing everything you can, but it takes you nowhere and it's so frustrating because you don't know what else to do.

"You learn a lot about yourself and you learn a lot about the players you're playing alongside and it's about taking the most out of it and from every experience you get."

Often when teams were named, fans would question the omission of Estelles, especially if they had recently seen him strutting his stuff for the Wanderers.

"I felt so much support from that fans for the last two years - I couldn't believe it," Estelles said.

"I don't know what I'm doing, but the people really sent messages about why I'm not playing and told me they hoped I would play more.

"It really keeps you going sometimes because you try hard and at least you see that people are aware of that and they know that you deserve a little more than you're getting.

"It always kept me going and put a smile on my face."

With Boyd arriving from Super Rugby giants the Hurricanes this summer, decisions were made on the futures of several first-team players.

There will be a huge turnover at the Gardens ahead of the new season, and Estelles was one of those who was not offered a new contract.

But he admits that he may not have stayed, even if he was given the chance, as he needs to get back to doing what he loves: playing rugby.

"I had a chat with Alan Dickens and was told that with the new head coach coming in, I wasn't going to be in Northampton next year," explained the Rosario-born back.

"From my point of view, even if they wanted me to stay, I didn't know if I wanted to because I wasn't really playing.

"I didn't want to spend another year not playing, training every day and there being no horizon.

"I was told I would be leaving and that was absolutely fine.

"Of course I would want to stay if I was going to play, but that wasn't happening so I still don't know what I'm doing next season.

"I've been back home, on holiday, seeing family and friends, clearing my thoughts, starting all over again and seeing what I want to do."

After his two-year adventure in England, Estelles, who has won three caps for Argentina, has now returned to his homeland to consider his options.

He is yet to sign for a new club, but he is looking forward to seeing what the future holds.

"I'm happy playing anywhere," he said when asked if he would consider a return to Europe at some point.

"I need to start all over again and I still haven't made a decision, but time will tell."

Juan Pablo Estelles excelled in an Anglo-Welsh Cup game at Exeter back in November

Juan Pablo Estelles excelled in an Anglo-Welsh Cup game at Exeter back in November

Juan Pablo Estelles made a good impression in an Anglo-Welsh Cup clash with the Dragons

Juan Pablo Estelles made a good impression in an Anglo-Welsh Cup clash with the Dragons

Juan Pablo Estelles was often on Wanderers duty

Juan Pablo Estelles was often on Wanderers duty