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Wakefield Trinity Wildcats 2016 Season Preview

After a turbulent season, the new-look Wildcats are a different animal under the steady hand of experienced coach Brian Smith. How will they fare in 2016?

Looking back:

Wakefield had a nightmare start to the last campaign. A succession of heavy defeats in the league left the Wildcats in free-fall. Knocked out of the Challenge Cup in front of their own fans by Championship side Leigh, Trinity had the air of a club resigned to its fate. However, when Brian Smith took over as coach midway through the campaign, his positive influence turned the club’s fortunes around. The Wildcats avoided disaster, defeating Bradford Bulls in the ‘Million Pound Game’, to claw back their place in NothingButLeague Super League.

2016 opening fixtures:

  • Widnes Vikings (H)
  • Castleford Tigers (A)
  • Hull KR (A)
  • Warrington Wolves (A)
  • Catalans Dragons (H)

2016 gains:

  • Tinirau Arona  (Cronulla Sharks)
  • Anthony Tupou (Cronulla Sharks)
  • Anthony England ( Warrington)
  • Liam Finn (Castleford Tigers)
  • Ashley Gibson  (Castleford Tigers)
  • Ben Jones-Bishop (Salford Red Devils)
  • Sean Morris (London Broncos)
  • Scott Moore (Castleford Tigers)

Star Signing: Ben Jones-Bishop

A product of the Leeds Academy, Ben Jones-Bishop scored 56 tries in 82 appearances for the Rhinos before his move to Salford. Despite the Red Devils’ disappointing campaign, he crossed the whitewash 16 times in 2015 and was one of the few highlights in Iestyn Harris’s struggling side. Able to play at full back or on the wing, Jones-Bishop is an outside back of the highest quality and will score plenty of points for the Wildcats in the coming season.

2016 losses:

  • Ali Lautiiti (New Zealand Warriors)
  • Paul McShane  (Castleford Tigers)
  • Daniel Smith (Huggersfield Giants)
  • Danny Washbrook (Hull FC)
  • Ian Kirke (retired)
  • Tim Smith (retired)
  • Dean Collis (released)
  • Pita Godinet (released)
  • Kevin Locke (released)
  • Lopini Paea (released)
  • Chris Riley (released)
  • Matthew Ryan (released)
  • Jarrod Sammut (released)
  • Kyle Trout (released)

Biggest loss: Danny Washbrook

Of the exodus departing Belle Vue in the close season Danny Washbrook, who leaves for Hull FC, is one player Smith will  be disappointed to lose. One of Wakefield’s more successful forwards in last year’s turbulent campaign, his metres made, carries and tackling were all key to the Wildcats’ revival.

Looking ahead:

The Wildcats are a side very much in transition. Barely recognisable from the team that plummeted to the foot of the table at the beginning of last season, Smith has made wholesale changes and now has a squad packed with potential.

Wakefield’s opening matches include games against Widnes and Hull KR which Smith will view as ‘must win’. Traditionally, the Wildcats enjoy good fortune at Castleford and will fancy their chances at Weldon Road in their first away fixture. When the Catalan Dragons visit Belle Vue, Wakefield will be quick to take advantage of any away-day jitters.

While defeating possible championship contenders Warrington at the Halliwell Jones may be a shake too far, if the Wildcats get the rub of the green, they could potentially win four out of their five opening fixtures. This will boost both their confidence and league position, putting them in a strong position for their remaining fixtures as they look to consolidate for the future.

The Wildcats are a work in progress. The top eight may be beyond them at this stage but look to see a marked improvement on the previous campaign, punctuated with the odd upset, as Wakefield secure their top flight status with far less anxiety than last season.

 

 

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