This time last year, Warrington Wolves were in a rut, with a league leaders curse and sitting ninth going into magic weekend. Indeed, few wire fans would have thought that 12 months on, they would be back in the top four, and pushing for the ultimate prize.
New signings, old stars returning to form and renewed confidence have been key to this revival, but the one major factor behind the club’s rise is a certain Steve Price.
Taking on the mantle of the great Tony Smith is a daunting task, but even tougher for a relatively unknown coach.
However, the Australian has brought a fresh feel to the Halliwell Jones Stadium, and has taken the Wolves to third place, two points behind their Magic Weekend opponents, the Wigan Warriors.
The wave of optimism is clear in Price’s demeanour as he sits down to discuss the first six months of his tenure.
He took over on October 6, 2017 with just a two-year stint at St George Illawara Dragons on his CV. A tough fixture list contributed to what turned into a baptism of fire, but it’s clear Price has now started to win over his doubters.
The turning point came courtesy of a 26-0 thrashing of Catalan Dragons in a cold and soggy Perpignan and since then the Wolves have enjoyed a 10 match unbeaten run.
So how does Price assess his first six months in charge?
“It’s been a pass mark, from day one when I first thought it was always going to take a little bit of time with the change of personal and coaching staff and the new systems in place which we designed,” he says.
“You start off a little bit slow but that was always my expectation. As we build into the season now, I like to think that there’s been a fair amount of shifting in our style of play, from an offensive and defensive point of view.
“It’s very pleasing but seeing the relationships building amongst the playing group- and the smiles the players doing it with- is really positive.”
The major talking point on the pitch has to be former Wigan Warriors star Josh Charnley.
The winger has been in blistering form, scoring 12 tries in eight games, and his new head coach believes that he is a perfect fit for Warrington’s style and culture.
“I’m just really impressed with his character,” Price said. “He’s a really good guy on the group. I’ve said before he’s a winner.
“He’s now won trophies on the biggest stage and he knows what it takes and he’s just a really quality person. It’s unfortunate that Toby [King] got injured, but the way Ryan [Atkins] has been going and building that combination with Josh is flourishing so that’s really positive.”
Read Price’s thoughts on the rest and the season and whether Warrington can claim an elusive Grand Final trophy on page 2!