IT COULD be six weeks before coach Brian Smith has a clear indication of how his Wakefield Trinity Wildcats side will fare this year.
Wildcats, who begin their First Utility Super League campaign at home to Widnes Vikings tomorrow, have a new-look team and Smith admitted it is likely to take a while for them to settle into the competition.
Smith and chairman Michael Carter have rebuilt Wakefield’s squad since they avoided relegation by beating Bradford Bulls in last October’s winner-takes-all million pound match.
Captain Danny Kirmond says Wildcats are aiming to qualify for the Super-8s this year, but Smith is taking a more cautious approach.
“In a month or six weeks we will have a much better handle on whether we are some sort of force to be reckoned with or not,” Smith conceded.
“We have added some players to our ranks and tried to build up those who’ve been with the club some time and we have got the job of building all that together.”
The coach, who took over midway through last season, added: “We have shown some good signs in our training and our performance against Leeds [on Boxing Day] was great.
“Against Castleford it was pretty ordinary, but I think there’s too many variables to say where we are at this stage.”
Smith is happy with the amount of work his squad have put in since beginning training in November.
“We’ve had a really good eight or nine-week preparation,” Smith said.
“Some of the players have done 10 weeks, so we are all itching to get started.”
Widnes finished ninth in the 2015 regular season and the Wakefield boss regards them as tough opening opponents.
“They beat us three times last year and beat a lot of top-eight teams,” Smith warned.
“From what I have seen, their pre-season has been outstanding.
“They have hit the ground running, which is a bit scary for us.
“We are going to get a measure of ourselves because they are a very direct team, very physical and they have one of the best ball players in the competition.
“They are a handful, but we are intent on making our mark on the competition.
“We want to do that with a really strong performance in our first game.”
Smith’s initial 19-man squad includes off-season signings Tinirau Arona, Anthony England, Liam Finn, Ben Jones-Bishop, Anthony Tupou and Jason Walton.
If selected, Finn, recruited from Castleford Tigers, will be making his first competitive appearance for Wakefield since 2004.
Scott Moore and Mickael Simon remain on the casualty list and there is no place for Richard Owen, who is back in full training after suffering a broken leg last summer, but Scott Anderson could feature after a broken nose.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats from: Anderson, Annakin, Arona, Arundel, Ashurst, England, Finn, Howarth, Jones-Bishop, Johnstone, Kirmond, Lyne, Miller, Molloy, Scruton, Sio, A Tupou, B Tupou, Walton.
Widnes Vikings from: Ah Van, Bridge, Brown, Cahill, Dean, Dudson, Farrell, Hanbury, Heremaia, Houston, Leuluai, Manuokafoa, Marsh, Mellor, O’Carroll, Runciman, Sa, Thompson, White.
Referee: Phil Bentham (Warrington).
Kick-off: Tomorrow, 3pm.