Richard Agar believes his Wakefield Trinity Wildcats side can thrive in upcoming ‘must win’ matches thanks to a desire to prove some play-off doubters wrong.
Wildcats have five matches left to book a place in Super League’s top-eight for the second year running, starting with the visit of rivals Bradford Bulls on Sunday (kick-off 3.30pm).
Agar’s men missed the chance to move into the play-offs last Friday when they suffered a second frustrating loss against Leeds Rhinos in a week.
It left Wakefield deflated but Agar is confident his men are still in good enough form to secure a top-eight spot.
“The carrot is big for us,” he said.
“We’re determined to prove a few people wrong and back-up our efforts of last year and this game is one of massive significance.
“I’m not saying if we don’t win that’s it, but for both ourselves and Bradford, if we want to keep in touch with Hull we both want to get this win badly.”
On the ‘must win’ nature of Sunday’s game, Agar said: “Most of the players are taking on that mantle and it’s great.
“We want to be playing in games that have got plenty of meaning and plenty at stake.”
Wildcats are set to boosted by the return of captain Danny Kirmond, who missed last week’s defeat against Leeds.
Kirmond, who is set to make his 100th Super League appearance on Sunday, suffered an adverse effect to a pain-killing injection in the pre-match warm-up last Friday but has been training all week.
Agar has also been weighing-up options elsewhere in light of what he described as below-par attacking performances against Leeds.
“We’re going to have a look at our team and decide on the make-up of it,” he said.
“It’s fair to say we haven’t attacked as well as we’d have liked to over the last two games so that’s something that, in a couple of key positions, we might have a look at.”
The ’Cats boss has likened the run-in to a penalty shoot-out, saying: “Each team’s got five cracks at it and we’re hoping to score more out of our five than Hull and Bradford. It goes without saying that this game is a massive one between ourselves and Bradford, but that’s the sort of mentality we’re trying to adopt.
“It’s the best of five really, everybody has five fixtures left and we know if we can win more than Hull and Bradford in the run-in then we’ll make the eight. Looking at the fixtures we still think we’ve got a realistic chance of that if we can make sure our performance levels are right.”
Agar says his men are preparing to face a Bradford Bulls side who will be fully focused on the task at hand on Sunday.
Bulls admitted last week they were forced to delay the payment of players’ wages but denied they were in danger of going into administration.
Their trip to the Rapid Solicitors Stadium will be their first match since that news came to light but Agar believes Bradford’s focus will be fully on bagging two points that would give their play-off hopes a huge boost.
“I can’t speak for Bradford’s mentality and whether any of those issues will have an effect on the players’ mindset,” he said.
“I think the game itself will be enough for both sets of players with so much at stake.”
He added: “The game itself is of enough significant importance and the players are professional enough to realise that since November they’ve been working really hard to try and make the top eight and I don’t think they’re going to let factors like that come into play when they’re in the changing room an hour before kick-off.”
Bulls have only won one of their last seven matches but Agar believes Francis Cummins’ side are better than recent results have showcased.
“I don’t really view them as a team that’s playing in a bad run of form, I think they’ve been super competitive in all of their games,” he said.
He added: “They’re well structured, well organised and they’ve got one or two players that can produce those moments of magic.”