WAKEFIELD TRINITY Wildcats are beginning their fight for Super League survival in good shape, coach Brian Smith reckons.
Wildcats kick-off their campaign in the Qualifiers – which will decide the final four places in the top-flight next season – with a trip to Salford Red Devils tomorrow.
It will be Smith’s eighth game in charge and Wakefield have won just once under his coaching so far, but the experienced Aussie has made regular changes to give his entire squad an opportunity. Points from the regular season do not carry over, so Wakefield will be starting on a level footing with their rivals and Smith said: “We’ve done a lot of work in the last six or eight weeks in preparation for this unique competition.
“It has a sudden-death feel to it and we want to get off to a great start this weekend. It’s not going to be easy because our opponents are going to be pretty much the same.
“But I was encouraged by our last match, at Huddersfield. Reviewing it, I was probably even more impressed with some of the stuff our guys did. We still had some moments when we were a bit below par and one of the factors that hurt us was our inability to control Danny Brough and his kicking.
“We are going to have to deal with some of the same stuff this week, with both (Michael) Dobson and Rangi Chase and their kicking games. That will be a vital factor, I think, in this game.”
Smith added: “I don’t think this system of play-offs has been used before and it will be interesting to see just how everybody approaches it, but I certainly feel we are on an equal basis to everybody else, whether they are seemingly above or below us. We are all fresh and ready to go and with a bit of a new look, with some new players in our squad at the back end of this period of preparation for us, we feel like we are set to start again.”
Smith has made 11 signings – either on loan or longer-term deals – since being appointed coach at the end of May. He feels Wakefield have a stronger squad now than when he took over.
“We have brought some experience into our team and there’s a confidence factor that comes around having guys like Lee Smith and Jordan Tansey and Scott Moore in particular,” he said.
“Those guys have got a lot of games under their belt at good clubs and strong clubs.
“The personal experience they’ve had in this sort of football will help us. We have 24 or 25 players in our group who are legitimate contenders for selection at the moment. We are still missing a few – Kevin Locke, Danny Kirmond and Stuart Howarth – which is a bit disappointing, but we’ve got a good balance about us and a good feeling of confidence, largely based on the introduction of some experience and confident people.”
Winger Richard Owen has been named in Wildcats’ squad for the first time since voluntarily entering a rehabilitation programme with the Sporting Chance Clinic last month.
Salford Red Devils: from Jones-Bishop, J Griffin, Sa’u, Johnson, Chase, Dobson, Morley, Lee, Hansen, Taylor, Evalds, A Walne, G Griffin, Forster, Paterson, Tomkins, Krasniqi, Maitua, Thornley.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats: from Anderson, Arundel, Ashurst, Lyne, Miller, Molloy, Moore, Mullally, Owen, Scruton, Simon, Sio, L Smith, T Smith, Tansey, Tupou, Walker, Washbrook, Yates.
Referee: James Child (Batley).
Kick-off: Tomorrow, 3pm.