Wakefield Trinity's slide this year from title contention to a relegation battle was a blip rather than the start of long-term decline, experienced back Ben Jones-Bishop reckons.
Trinity were third in Betfred Super League midway through the season, but slumped to finish ninth – having gone into the final round as one of four teams in danger of playing in the Championship next year.
They ended the campaign two points above 12th-placed London Broncos, their poorest performance since 2015 when they won the Million Pound Match to hang on to top-flight status after ending the regular season bottom of the table.
Under coach Chris Chester, Wakefield had been on an upward curve since then, finishing eighth in 2016 and fifth for the next two seasons and Jones-Bishop believes – boosted by some new faces, plus the return of several key players from long-term injury – that Trinity will be heading in the right direction again in 2020.
Pre-season training begins next Monday, but Jones-Bishop, who has been on international duty for Jamaica, is due to report back on November 11.
“The squad’s coming together,” said the 31-year-old former Leeds Rhinos winger or full-back.
“It’ll be good to get back into pre-season and start gelling. We started really well and for various reasons – you don’t want to blame injuries – we were at the wrong end of the table at the end of the year.
“We will look to put things right, have a good pre-season and start the year well.”
Jones-Bishop knows the work Trinity, who won only three of their last 15 Super League games this year, do over the next three months will be crucial to their hopes of getting back to the right end of the table.
“It always is,” he stated. “You have got to start the season on fire and hit the ground running.
“It’s just a case in this off-season period of trying to work out what went right in the first half of the year and trying to go back to that.
“You don’t want to blame injuries all the time, but losing our six and seven [Jacob Miller and Danny Brough] for massive parts of the year was obviously big for us and then you are sort of rushing them back when they are not fully fit and that has an effect as well.
“It’s a fresh start, a new year and we will be looking to be fighting at the top end again.”
Jay Pitts, who returned to Wakefield last week from London Broncos, was Trinity’s fourth new signing for 2020, after Joe Westerman, Alex Walker and Josh Wood.
Jones-Bishop reckons the new faces – along with Chris Green whose loan spell has become a full-time move – will bring “competition and some experience as well” to Trinity’s squad.
He said: “I think it’s good, we are improving, things are getting better on and off the field and, hopefully, we can keep going that way.
“We have got a pretty big squad, lots of outside-backs and that competition is good for everyone.”