Rugby League is back. And we love it. However, it’s fair to say that Warrington Head Coach Steve Price probably isn’t quite feeling as enthusiastic as we are. Warrington boast a team of highly talented players and whilst there’s still a fairly good chance that they will be there or thereabouts with regards to the silverware come the end of the season, the start they have made to the 2017/2018 season won’t fill any wire fans with confidence. Back to back defeats against the Rhinos and Huddersfield Giants aren’t the end of the world on paper but the manner of those defeats are certainly cause for concern, with the Wolves looking off the pace in almost all departments.
The question on the lips of most Rugby League fans will undoubtedly be, “Is 2018 going to be yet another false dawn for Warrington”. Whilst this is an impossible question to answer at such an early stage of the season, the start that ‘The Wire’ have made this season is already drawing parallels to a disastrous 2017. On the face of it, 2017 should have been Warrington’s year – in 2016, they won the highly coveted league leaders’ shield and got to the final of both the Challenge Cup and the Grand Final, narrowly losing out to Hull F.C and Wigan Warriors respectively.
Despite this, Warrington finished last season in a disappointing 9th place.Whilst this is shocking enough in isolation, the fact that this was a team who had beaten the Brisbane Broncos in a World Club game in February makes their poor season all the more galling and puzzling. To put their win against the Broncos into context, this was the first victory for an English club over Australian opposition since 2012. Warrington clearly had it in them to produce performances of this nature and yet for some reason, they failed to replicate this kind of form in the Super League, simply showing fleeting moments of brilliance as opposed to the kind of solid consistency which has made them one of the most lauded teams in England.
When looking back on Warrington’s 2017 season, there was an obvious lack of direction and cohesion in the squad. Injuries to influential players such as Ben Currie also didn’t help the Wire’s cause but at the same time, a quality outfit should have ready-made replacements who are ready to slot in at the drop of hat. Of course, Currie is an outstanding second-row and it’s difficult to replace a player of his quality but injuries are part and parcel of Rugby League due to the sheer physicality of the game. Can the loss of one player really damage a team so much? Perhaps. Can you simply attribute Warrington’s poor season to the loss of Currie? Absolutely not.
Source: Warrington Wolves via Facebook
Fast forward to 2018 and there are already worrying signs for Steve Price and his team. In their first two defeats, they have only managed a meagre three tries and when you consider that Tom Lineham’s effort against the Rhinos was giftwrapped to him by the unfortunate Jack Walker, it paints an even bleaker picture for the Wolves’ front line. Against Huddersfield, the team once again looked toothless in attack and Lineham’s early try aside, Warrington didn’t even come close to troubling the scorers in a second half which is surely already a contender for one of the worst by any team this season. With last Widnes next up for Warrington, a poor performance against the basement boys of last season will really set the alarm bells ringing.
Despite his best efforts against Leeds in the first game of the season, Wolves’ marquee signing Tyrone Roberts clearly wasn’t match fit against the Giants and therefore looks set to sit out the game against the Vikings this Friday. Although this will undoubtedly put more pressure on Kevin Brown, the five-eight has done reasonably well against Widnes since his switch between the two clubs back in December 2016. A convincing win against the Vikings could well be the tonic the team needs and act as a catalyst to kick-start their season. With the start that the Wire have made, it would take a brave man to back them to go onto bigger and better things but with a number of free bets available over at Oddschecker, it’s possible take a punt on Warrington to turn things around without breaking the bank.
If there are any positives to be taken from Warrington’s opening two games then look no further than their goal-line defence. Despite the lacklustre performances against the Rhinos and Giants, Warrington have only conceded six tries across the two matches and four of these have come off kicks. If the Wolves can get their usually dependant frontline firing then that is the kind of economy which will see them once again rise up the Super League table and challenge for the top prizes. It’s important to note however that Warrington committed 28 errors in their last outing against Huddersfield, which was rightly branded “unacceptable” by head coach Steve Price and his team will need to stop shooting themselves in the foot, especially when up against players of the calibre of Danny Brough.
On their latest mission to become not only the biggest club in the Super League, but the biggest Rugby League club in the world, Warrington have seemingly gone backwards on the pitch. In addition to this, they’ve lost their influential chief executive Roger Draper who seemingly triggered the whole campaign and have parted company with the Super League’s longest serving coach, Tony Smith. With this in mind, it’s fair to say that Warrington are a club in transition although this is still no excuse for their poor performances on the pitch. Off the pitch, the current issues will no doubt take care of themselves but for Price, a bigger challenge lies ahead once the players cross that white line against Widnes.
As has already been previously mentioned, it’s far too early to write Warrington off and you do so at your peril. However, the team will have to buck their ideas up if they are to have any chance of being successful this season and the longer they go without showing any signs of improvement, the more worried fans will be that this season will turn out to be a carbon copy of their 2017 campaign. The upcoming derby against Widnes is arguably the perfect fixture for the team at the perfect time and a convincing win and performance will put the smiles back on the fans’ faces and send out a message to the rest of the league.
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