Richard Agar admits the challenge of helping Wakefield Trinity Wildcats through their current financial crisis will be a tough one - but one he is ready for.
The Wildcats boss prepared for Sunday’s penultimate Super League clash of the season at Huddersfield Giants with half-back Tim Smith in his plans, only to find the Australian had been sold to Salford City Reds just days before the game to help club finances.
Chairman Michael Carter announced in a statement on Saturday that the club was “under capitalised” by £400,000 and called on supporters and local businesses to help pull them through a “difficult situation”.
More players could follow Smith out of the Rapid Solicitors Stadium door to balance the books as Agar faces up to another close season of restructuring his squad just two years after overhauling the Wakefield playing staff following previous financial difficulties.
“I’m not afraid of a challenge,” he said. “Chairman, owners, chief executives, coaches and players come and go, but fans and clubs remain.
“First and foremost it’s quite apparent the club’s in a bit of a trouble and to get this club back on an even keel and surviving and operating as a business that can wash its own face or accrue losses that the current owner knows he can manage and sustain, that’s the most important thing.
“We’re all custodians of whatever part of the job we have, so if they tell me this is what we’ve got to do to survive, and this is all we can work off, and moving forward it’s going to be tough - that bit doesn’t frighten me at all. But in terms of challenges that are in front they’re pretty big.”
He continued: “I’ll take stock. I have a lot of respect for Michael Carter and he’ll tell us the truth and where we’re at, and once we establish where we’re at we’ll know how hard or easy it’s going to be and we’ll see if we can make it work and go forward together.
“I’m not afraid of it all but it’s tough. The big thing for me is that from the start of last year we were in a similar situation then, no money, needing to put a squad together and I thought we made some pretty good strides.
“Our supporters got behind us, our crowds are up and we have been a competitive team that plays good rugby and we may be on the verge of having to restructure things and start again.
“Scrum halves are hard to find and we’ve lost two this year. Hopefully over the next couple of months we can find a way through this and hang on to as many important members of our squad as we need to.”
Despite the sale of Smith, Wildcats turned down a substantial bid for their skipper Danny Kirmond, who is keen to remain at the club.
New deals have also been agreed with Ali Lauitiiti and Lee Smith, following on from players such as Paul Sykes and Dean Collis agreeing extended stays in the red, white and blue.
However, Agar has been left angered by approaches from Salford for a number of his other players, approaches that have prompted Wakefield to go to the Rugby Football League.
He said: “Salford have directly contacted three or four of our players. We’ve notified the RFL quite a while ago about this.
“They’ll deny it and there’s a third party agent working for them but I know that players under contract have been approached and that’s a disappointing mode of operation. We know certain things go on but sometimes there’s ways and means of doing things.”
The Wildcats boss said the Wakefield dressing room was “very, very quiet” before the Giants game following on from the news over the previous few days, but hopes his troops can find a response on the pitch when they close their campaign with a home derby against Castleford Tigers on Sunday.
“We’ve had a bad trot,” he said. “We’ve had a really tough night and we’ve got a derby at home next week that, looking at league table, we can still finish as high as ninth which would be a respectable finish for us.
“It’s a home game, a derby, Cas in front of our own fans and hopefully in adversity we can find a response to the happenings of this week.”