With just over a week until Super League XXIII campaign kicks off at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, Josh McAllister (@RLLatest) previews what Chris Chester’s Wakefield Trinity will achieve in 2018.
With a finished position of fifth in 2017, can the Trinity push one further and make the all-important top four in 2018?
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Jordan Baldwinson (Leeds Rhinos), Justin Horo (Catalans Dragons), Pauli Pauli (Newcastle Knights), Ryan Hampshire (Leigh Centurions)
Mitchell Allgood (St George-Illawarra Dragons), Ashley Gibson (Bradford Bulls), Adam Walker (Wakefield Wildcats), Sam Williams (Canberra Raiders)
Hull KR (A), Salford Red Devils (H), Catalans Dragons (A), Huddersfield Giants (H), Wigan Warriors (A)
WHAT TO EXPECT
Wakefield Trinity, formerly known as Wildcats, were doubted by many to make the top eight last season, but they succeeded in proving the rugby league world wrong.
Chris Chester’s side not only managed to compete to make the Super 8s, but they came agonisingly close to finishing in the top four, losing out by a point to St Helens.
In one of the stand-out signings of the year, Intrust Super Premiership NSW Halfback of the Year Sam Williams was brought into the squad for the 2017 season, but the ever-growing relationship between Liam Finn and Jacob Miller saw the 26-year-old return home with the Canberra Raiders.
Finn and Miller, who somewhat sound like detectives on a TV show, unexpectedly became one of the stand out partnerships within the 2017 campaign, which essentially led them to defeating all doubts to make the Super 8s.
This partnership will grow ever more in 2018, which could see them push one step further in the upcoming season and defeat all odds to make the top four.
Wakefield Chairman Michael Carter and head coach Chester have brought in just a few fresh faces for the upcoming campaign, including Catalans Dragons second-rower Justin Horo and NRL star Pauli Pauli – so good they named him twice.
Pauli made his NRL debut in 2014 with the Parramatta Eels, making 33 appearances before joining Newcastle Knights.
The 23-year-old prop forward has also represented NSW City, and looks to add much experience to the forward pack alongside Danny Kirmond, Craig Huby and Anthony England.
However, one-stand out performer in 2018 will undoubtedly be young winger Tom Johnstone. The 2016 Young Player of the Year missed out on the previous campaign due to injury, but didn’t fail to return in style in Wakefield’s pre-season friendly against Halifax, bagging a hat-trick of tries.
The 22-year-old was the club’s highest try scorer in 2016, with a record of 31 tries in 38 appearances for the Trinity.
The Germany-born player is destined for a season to be remembered in 2018 which may see the winger called up to Wayne Bennett’s England squad, something that could have happened if injury didn’t fail him previously.
Trinity’s first five games look to be ones they can claim the two points from, with their first game playing away to recently promoted Hull KR, coached by former Australia coach Tim Sheens, who will be looking to start as they mean to go on and will provide the perfect first test for the Trinity.
The next four look likely if the team remains fit and avoid injury, including Wigan, who Wakefield defeated 42-30 last year the DW Stadium.
Wakefield look set for a wonderful 2018 campaign, and the recent-appointment of experience Michael Monaghan as assistant coach may prove the difference this year.
Top Tryscorer – Tom Johnstone
Top Pointscorer – Tom Johnstone
Club Player of the Year – Liam Finn
WHERE WILL WAKEFIELD TRINITY FINISH?