WARRINGTON Wolves start the 25th season of Super League asking the same old question – is it their year?
Wembley success – the fourth in 11 years – papered over a dismal second half to the campaign where the Wolves went from being the only credible challengers to St Helens, to not even managing to navigate through the first game in the play-offs off the back of a run where they won just three games out of 12, you’d have got better odds at 888 online casino!
As is often the case, the Wolves have recruited strongly – marquee man Gareth Widdop creating an enviable half-back partnership with Blake Austin, though the England international will frustratingly sit out at least the first game against Wigan after suffering an ankle injury in training.
It’s in their other signings that coach Steve Price may see some excitement and change, with last year’s Championship top try scorer Matty Ashton already having propelled himself in to first team contention, and ex-Wigan centre Anthony Gelling bringing a steely professionalism that he has perhaps lost in recent years as he’s turned in to a social media sensation.
The fixture list has handed the Wolves a real baptism of fire – Wigan away to open, before a home game against St Helens. Toronto are early visitors to the Halliwell Jones Stadium too, and after the struggles at the end of the last campaign, it’s crucial that they get off to a good start, or Price could find himself under pressure.
Ins: Matty Ashton (Swinton), Keanan Brand (Widnes), Anthony Gelling (Widnes), Gareth Widdop (St George), Samy Kibula (Wigan), Leilani Latu (Gold Coast)
Steve Price on his young signings: “Samy Kibula has lost 13kilos since he arrived. Matty Ashton I didn’t really appreciate the speed and how fast he can get across the ground in the Championship, but I certainly appreciate it now. He’s like a Ferrari. Keanan Brand has got a really strong core and does things differently to what we’ve had in the past.”
Steve Price on Anthony Gelling: “I’m really pleased with how he’s trained. He’s a proven winner, he’s won Grand Finals at Wigan and he understand what success looks like. He’s brought a really strong edge to him, he carries himself well, and I’m really pleased with how he has gone about his business.”
Outs: Bryson Goodwin (South Sydney), Ryan Atkins (Wakefield), Kevin Brown (Salford), Lama Tasi (Unattached), Ben Westwood (Retiring), Harvey Livett (Hull KR – Loan).
1 Stefan Ratchford, 2 Tom Lineham, 3 Anthony Gelling, 4 Toby King, 5 Josh Charnley, 6 Blake Austin, 7 Gareth Widdop, 8 Chris Hill, 9 Daryl Clark, 10 Mike Cooper, 11 Ben Currie, 12 Jack Hughes, 13 Ben Murdoch-Masila, 14 Jason Clark, 15 Joe Philbin, 16 Leilani Latu, 17 Jake Mamo, 18 Sitaleki Akauola, 19 Matt Davis, 20 Danny Walker, 21 Declan Patton, 22 Luis Johnson, 23 Luther Burrell, 24 Keanan Brand, 25 Samuel Kibula, 26 Matty Ashton, 27 Ellis Robson, 28 Nathan Roebuck, 29 Josh Thewlis, 30 Riley Dean.
Steve Price on his squad: “I’m really happy with our squad. We’ve got a really good blend of youth and experience. There are players who have played at the highest level, with representative honours and also with different backgrounds.
4th in Super League (lost in play-offs first round)
Challenge Cup winners
The Wolves finished the Super League season on a dismal run of eight losses in nine, which ended with a disappointing home defeat to Castleford in the play-offs. The last time they won successive games is when they beat Catalans and Wigan either side of a Challenge Cup win away at Hull KR.
In many ways, the Challenge Cup saved Warrington’s season – their shock 18-4 win over heavy favourites St helens at Wembley gave a deserved trophy success, having seen off Wigan, Hull KR and Hull FC on their way to the final.
Steve Price on why the Wolves tailed off in 2019: “I’ve got my reasons and I’m not going to go into detail about it, but it is a long season so I’ve got to look at that, and also our style of play and with our senior players, I think we can change a few things up.”
Fixtures to look out for
- First home game – Thurs 6th Feb v St Helens
- Magic Weekend – Sunday 24th May v Wigan at St James’ Park
- Catalans away – Saturday 13th May
- Toronto away – Saturday 4th July
- Final game – Fri 11th September v Wigan
Steve Price on Toronto: “It’s great what they have. It’s a great coup for them to attract Sonny Bill Williams to our game. Hopefully we can attract a wider, broader audience to our great game. A lot of teams have recruited really well so I feel the competition is going to be a lot stronger this year.”