WAKEFIELD TRINITY are in better shape now than 12 months ago, coach Chris Chester says.
New signings Jay Pitts, Alex Walker and Josh Wood have been included in Trinity’s 19-man squad for the Wetherby Whaler Festive Challenge at Leeds Rhinos on Boxing Day.
The new season has an early start, with Trinity beginning their campaign at Hull KR on Friday, January 31, so Chester reckons this year’s Christmas fixture will have more bearing than usual.
Trinity began preparations in early November and Chester said: “I think we are ready for a game.”
The coach insisted: “This week is our eighth in pre-season and I think we are in a lot better position now than 12 months ago.
“We’ve managed to get quite a lot more into the players over the past seven weeks and there are some positive signs.
“The guys are looking really fit, which has been a big focus in pre-season.
“They are looking strong so it should be a good first hit-out and, as long as we don’t pick up any injuries, I will be happy.”
Matty Ashurst will return from injury and veteran forward Danny Kirmond is also set to feature on Thursday, but playmaker Danny Brough will not be risked.
Defences often dominate the Christmas fixture, which Rhinos won 10-4 last year and Chester admitted: “I am not too bothered about what we do with the ball.
“We have done quite a bit with the ball [in training], but I want to look at our attitude more than anything and where we are fitness-wise.”
Rather than getting a Christmas break, Chester said Trinity’s players will be at work on December 28, 29 and 30 ahead of what will be a “really busy” January.
They face Hull KR in Danny Brough’s testimonial game on January 12, before flying to Alicante for warm-weather training the following day.
Following a week in the sun, they take on Huddersfield Giants on Wednesday, January 22 and the season proper begins nine days later.
“It will all come thick and fast after Christmas,” Chester said. “We’ve got to be mindful the season starts early and we’ve only got four weeks before we go again.”