AFTER shaking up Betfred Super League last season, coach Chris Chester reckons Wakefield Trinity will go into 2018 with a better squad.
Recruits Justin Horo, Jordan Baldwinson, Pauli Pauli and Ryan Hampshire are all set to feature when Trinity begin their pre-season campaign at home to Leeds Rhinos on Boxing Day.
Trinity finished fifth this year, their highest placing since 2009, but rather than resting on their laurels, Chester said their aim for the new season is to push into the top-four play-offs for the first time.
“We want to play more consistent footy,” said the coach. “We want to be known as a team that’s hard to beat. We know we changed perceptions over the last few years in terms of no longer being an easy-beat side.
“We were very hard to beat and we want some of that same consistency we showed last year. I genuinely think we’ve got a stronger squad on paper than we had last year and we’ll use the next four games to work out our best combinations for the first round on February 2.”
Chester has not ruled out at least one more signing before the league opener at promoted Hull KR.
We want to be known as a team that’s hard to beat. We know we changed perceptions over the last few years in terms of no longer being an easy-beat side.Wakefield Trinity head coach, Chris Chester
“We’ve still got some budget left,” he confirmed. “With John Kear, (who has been appointed coach at Bradford Bulls) going it has released a bit more cash.
“Whether that is to bring in an experienced assistant-coach or another player, we will make that decision in the new year. “We are not going to rush into anything.”
The Boxing Day clash will be followed by a home game against Championship side Halifax on Sunday, January 7. Trinity visit Batley Bulldogs on Sunday, January 14 and entertain Super League rivals Huddersfield Giants six days later.
Chester admitted wins are not his main priority over the next few weeks.
“We’re not looking at results,” he stated. “It’s more about the performance, but first and foremost we want to come out injury-free.
“We’ve got four games to prepare for the season, which is a bit of a coach’s nightmare and one we’re going to have to manage.
“We’ll probably play our strongest team against Huddersfield and Halifax.”
But, after almost two months of training, Chester is keen to see how his players fare against tough opposition next week.
“I think we are ready,” he insisted. “There’s only so much training you can do and it’ll give us a fair indication of what we need to work on.
“The guys are pumped, it has been a long seven or eight weeks.”
Hampshire has been added to Trinity’s Boxing Day squad after joining them from Leigh Centurions four days ago and Chester confirmed: “He will play some part.
“He has been keeping himself fit and has looked really sharp in training.
“The new guys look pretty good. They are still getting to know each other and how each other players and it will be good for them to get a run-out on Boxing Day.”