Warrington Wolves have been the nearly team of the Super League since its inception in 1996. The club have reached the Grand Final on four occasions and topped the standings twice, but have failed to win the crown.
There appears to be a cultural issue at the Wolves, holding them back from reaching their potential. The longer the drought grows without winning the title, the greater the pressure builds on the team. They are not alone in sports as teams have endured lengthy periods without titles or significant victories to their name.
However, Scotland’s rugby union side could be the standard-bearer for change. The Scots had not beaten England in 38 years at Twickenham ahead of their 2021 Six Nations opener, and their winless run was widely expected to continue. However, Gregor Townsend’s men rose to the occasion to stun the Red Rose to end their drought and claim the Calcutta Cup. Scotland are now backed in the odds on the Six Nations betting with Betfair at 4/1 to win the competition. Having not won the competition since 1999, it would be a surprise for Scotland to achieve the feat but, after defeating England, anything is possible.
Teams of Warrington’s ilk should take heart from Scotland’s performances ahead of the 2021 Super League campaign. The Wolves have more often than not been competitive in the competition, but have lacked the composure when it has mattered the most to win the Grand Final.
In 2011, the Wolves produced an outstanding campaign to finish the regular season with the top spot, dropping only five games in the process. Tony Smith’s men brushed aside the Huddersfield Giants in the first round of the post-season but were then beaten by the eventual champions Leeds Rhinos in the semi-finals. The Rhinos reared their head again in 2012 after the Wolves got over the hump to reach the Grand Final with a great run in the post-season, only to collapse in the second half after holding a lead in the contest.
Warrington were again outstanding in 2013 to surge towards the Grand Final for the second season on the bounce. On this occasion, Wigan Warriors lay in their path after the Wolves gained revenge on the Rhinos and overcame the Giants. Smith’s men appeared to be on the path to victory, taking a 16-2 lead in the contest, but the nerves got to them as they failed to score another point and lost 30-16 amid a ferocious comeback in the second half.
It was the same story in 2016 as the Wolves reeled off another impressive campaign during the regular season, topping the Super Eight stage. Warrington beat out St Helens in the semi-finals with an outstanding performance at the Halliwell Jones Stadium. The Warriors lay in wait in the final and bad memories came flooding back for Warrington after taking a 6-2 lead. Once again they failed under the spotlight to close out the triumph, falling to a 12-6 defeat.
In the hope of making it a third time lucky, the Wolves paved a way to the Grand Final in 2018. Yet again Warrington claimed an early advantage, but the momentum shifted towards the Warriors, who had the nous when it mattered to notch the crucial scores and make the stops on the line, earning yet another title.
There has been a drop off in the quality in their ranks compared to their rivals in the two years since their last Grand Final appearance. However, there may also be a mental block regarding their prospects, especially in the post-season. Scotland have presented a blueprint to overcome years of agony, but it will be up to Steve Price and his men to deliver the success on the field.