Warrington Wolves have been installed as second favourites to rally and seize Super League Grand Final glory in 2019.
They are still licking their wounds after the heart-breaking defeat to Wigan in last month’s showpiece, but the bookmakers believe they will be right back in the mix next season. They are now blessed with the talents of Ade Gardner, who has joined as head of performance, and he will bid to drive them to new heights. The arrival of teenage hooker Danny Walker on a three-year deal has also bolstered the team and Wolves could well be the team beat next year.
The best bookmakers all have Super League odds for next season and St Helen’s are the 4/1 favourites, followed closely by Warrington at 9/2. Saints finished top of the table, with an impressive 21 wins from 23 games, but they were no match for Warrington in the semi-final as two second-half tries from Tom Lineham sent Wolves to their second Super League Grand Final in three years with an 18-13 triumph. They suffered that agonising defeat to Wigan, but the bookmakers clearly think the departure of long-standing manager Shaun Wane will dent their chances of defending their crown next season.
Wigan are third in the betting at 5/1, followed by Castleford and 6/1 and Leeds at 10/1. It looks close, but the bookies think St Helens and Warrington are the leading lights to watch out for, and Warrington should be emboldened by their semi-final triumph against their rivals. The comments from Gardner, who joined from St Helens, should further boost a sense of optimism at the club. “Everything that Warrington offers is really innovative,” said the former winger, who won a Grand Final, World Club Challenge and four Challenge Cups with Saints. “I can’t speak highly enough of the staff at the club. They are very organised and professional. I saw this as a really good opportunity for me to progress my career, from being an assistant at Saints coming into a top-notch high performance environment here at Warrington that rivals anywhere in Super League. It was too much to turn down.”
Gardner hailed the quality in the Warrington squad as “outstanding” and he hopes to help take these fantastic athletes one step further in 2019. He has a winning mentality and he should be able to improve the conditioning, speed and dynamism within the Warrington camp, as they have been hallmarks of St Helens teams in recent times. He is the sort of young, bright professional the club needs as it bids to finally lift the famous trophy it so covets.
Walker has been making similarly positive noises, and the move is a dream come true for the 19-year-old former Widnes star, as he has supported Warrington all his life. “I used to stand on the terraces so it means the world to me to have signed,” he said. “I can’t wait to get started and play with all the boys as there’s some exceptional talent.” He should be able to inject pace, power and creativity into the team and he looks a useful addition to the squad.
The players have been warned over a tunnel fracas during half-time at Old Trafford as tempers flared up at the Grand Final. But if they can channel that aggression into a determination to return to the summit of the game then it could turn out to be a very strong season for Warrington Wolves. The best revenge would be to beat Wigan in big games next season and seize silverware at their expense, and now begins the long road towards that aim.