After a torrid 2017, the Warrington Wolves parted company with Tony Smith, with Steve Price given the job of rebuilding a side who were low on confidence.
Prior to his appointment, Price spent time as the head coach of St George Illawarra Dragons and assistant at Cronulla Sharks. He was a man without much experience as a head coach and was thrown straight into Super League.
The first job on his to-do list was to sort out the first team affairs. The off season saw Joe Westerman, Rhys Evans, Ashton Sims, Sam Wilde, Benjamin Julien, Peta Hiku and Brad Dwyer all leave, with the likes of Tyrone Roberts, Ben Murdoch-Masila and Bryson Goodwin arriving at the Halliwell Jones to huge fanfare.
The squad was set and ready for 2018 but the season didn’t start the way Price would have hoped, thanks to defeats against Leeds Rhinos and Huddersfield Giants early in the Australian’s reign.
Fast forward a couple of months and Wire’s fortunes have changed. They are currently sat third in the Super League table and head into this weekend’s Challenge Cup tie against Toronto Wolfpack with a nine game winning streak.
So, how has the new Warrington boss turned things around so quickly?
He was adamant as soon as he stepped through the doors that his team were going to be resilient and tougher in character, and he has added those characteristics to this new and improved Warrington team.
Some would say it’s a philosophy but others would say it’s a coaching style, but it seems to be more about his man management of the team as individuals and a whole, similarly to Daryl Powell at Castleford Tigers. He has certainly made the defence more watertight, so Ian argument for it being about his philosophy could be made.
It’s clear to see the combinations in the squad are something that has been thoroughly worked on. Kevin Brown and Tyrone Roberts have created a partnership in the middle between six and seven that I haven’t seen in any other side in Super League this year.
They work as individuals, rather than a halfback pairing, as Brown controls the game while Roberts links up play with his back rowers and fullback Stefan Ratchford.
Since Josh Charnley signed for the Wolves he has made a significant impact, scoring ten tries in seven matches. He started off with Toby King as his centre scoring four tries, but since his injury he has sparked up a partnership with Ryan Atkins. That edge is firing on all cylinders, much to the delight of Warrington supporters.
Price seems to have got the mix of youth and experience right too, as Chris Hill, Ben Westwood, Daryl Clark and Ratchford are contrasted perfectly by players like King, Declan Patton and Harvey Livett. And, on the fringe of the squad youngsters Pat Moran and Eribe Doro are gaining valuable experience and developing into the future of the club.
The final judgement on whether Price has been a success at Warrington will come down to how well they finish the season, as there are no titles handed out in May. They are just two points behind Wigan Warriors, and they could bridge that gap at next week’s Dacia Magic Weekend. The top of the table isn’t out of their reach either, as St Helens are just four points ahead at the summit.
It would be a hell of a task for him to lead the club to their first grand final victory, although some would argue he is on the way to doing so. Saints are the early favourites to be crowned champions. but with the way the play offs work are Warrington in for a shout of Old Trafford glory?
As far as Steve Price and Warrington Wolves are concerned, it is so far so good, but where will his pack go next?