Wakefield Trinity braced for tough start to 2021 Super League campaign
CHRIS CHESTER is confident Wakefield Trinity have the capacity to match any team in Super League when all of their best players are on the field.
Last season proved a challenging one for Trinity as they finished 10th in the 11-team table and endured a 10-game losing streak when the season resumed in August, after it had been paused due to Covid-19.
Wakefield were plagued by injuries to a number of key players in 2019 as they avoided relegation on the final day of the campaign before more injuries and Covid disruption last year meant that Chester was only able to field what he considered his strongest side on a handful of occasions.
It has been a long pre-season for top-flight clubs and Chester has adopted a different approach to his side's preparations, in a bid to keep his best players fit.
Wakefield face the Challenge Cup holders, Super League champions and 2020 League Leaders' Shield winners in their first three league games.
Starting with a trip to Leeds Rhinos on Saturday afternoon, Chester admits it doesn't come much tougher as his side then look to fixtures with St Helens and Wigan Warriors.
However, he did insist: "You look at all the fixtures, they are all hard games.
"With the new rules, the game is a lot quicker and even more so this year, ruck speed and ball retention is going to be really crucial.
"I would rather play these teams at the start of the season than towards the back end. Hopefully we catch them on an off day.
"There is no bigger challenge for us than those first three to four weeks, we have got a Challenge Cup game in-between as well.
"We need to worry about Leeds first and then we have a short time to prepare for St Helens on the Thursday.
"We are a confident group and we are confident in what we have done in pre-season. If we keep our best players on the field, we can beat anybody."
He added: "We have set some goals which we will keep indoors. We have got some strong leadership and they have driven the standards."
Just three players will be unavailable for selection on Saturday, with Eddie Battye and Kyle Wood both ruled out by calf strains. Max Jowitt is sidelined by an ankle problem but new signing
Mason Lino will be fit after picking up a knock in the pre-season friendly with Dewsbury Rams.
It has been a long pre-season for top-flight clubs and Chester has adopted a different approach to his side’s preparations, in a bid to keep his best players fit.
Explaining the changes, Chester said: “It seems to have taken an age, that pre-season we have just gone through, 12 to 13 weeks of consecutive training, it is a bit of an unknown and we have changed a lot in pre-season in terms of the content.
“We have had a lot more video and a lot more off-feat contact than we have had in the previous years I have been here. The boys have been ready for it for a number of weeks.
“They had a bit of taste of it with the hit out against Dewsbury but this is a different entity altogether and a different challenge on Saturday.”
Leeds Rhinos half-backs Luke Gale and Kyle Eastmond are facing a race to be fit but Chester believes there is still a lot of quality in the Rhinos ranks.
“They have got a lot of talent there, with the young kids and they’ve got a lot of experience in there as well,” he added.
“They have got some smart half-backs in Luke Gale and Kyle Eastmond and some strike on the edge with the likes of Konrad Hurrell, Tom Briscoe and Harry Newman.
“I think it will be a really good challenge for our boys. They have been ready for a number of weeks, you can just tell that both teams are ready.”