Warrington Wolves Season Preview Ahead of the 2019 season we have contacted fans from our Super League opponents, to help to give us a steer on how they see the season going for their team. There are only 2 previews left, and they’re from our 2 nearest and dearest clubs. Today is Warrington’s turn. Will it be their year? In their own words… WF: Hi, I’m Toby a season ticket holder at Warrington and have been following the Team for quite a few years now. My favourite stadium that I’ve seen us play in has to be Old Trafford being a United fan. (Toby runs @wire_fans, a Twitter fan channel for the Super League team Warrington Wolves. Which, in his own words, is not associated with @wolvesrl official twitter account.) RT: My name’s is Russ I’m semi retired and have been watching the Mighty Wire all my adult life. My 1st game was against Leigh at Hilton Park in the 70’s. The Wire lost something like 8-4 and it was a blood bath, players punching each other in the scrum and off the ball. At the end I thought “this is for me” and I was hooked I try to go to every single game but even though I’m semi retired I still work shifts and do miss some away games. I’m a season ticket holder in the East Stand. There are 10 of us of varying ages and we all go together, it’s great. Despite looking the real deal towards the end of the season Warrington couldn’t quite pick up any trophies last year. Can you sum up last season as a Wire fan? (Were you happy, frustrated, disappointed etc. and why) WF: You could describe 2018 for the wire as a predominantly transitional year, we saw the loss of a long serving coach in Tony Smith and the passing of the baton over to Cronulla assistant Steve Price. It was frustrating and somewhat disappointing to start the way we did and finish the way we did, getting to yet again both finals and coming short is a memory just too familiar to us. RT: After our dreadful season in 2017 I didn’t know what to expect, but I was convinced that we could make top 6 or better. We had a real bad start losing 5 of our 1st 7 games & I though “oh know here we go again”. Then we went to Catalan and nilled them that was the day our season started. We slowly moved up the table and as you all know made it to both finals. (yes, yes I know we lost but no other club made both finals and coming from season 2017 to make both finals was a resounding success for me). To make it to Old Trafford we had to go to the Super League Club who I fear most, St Helens. Ben Barba, Lomax, Percival and the player whom I would have loved to have at the Wire, James Roby. Saints and Wire have plenty of recent history with Saints always seeming to get the upper hand over us Wires. That 17 game winning streak that Saints had against us still causes me night sweats now (I was at every single one of this 17 games). Any way enough of the past, as we all know Wire won that game, which I have to say was my greatest night of RL in 40 years of watching the Wire. It was fantastic and that Thursday night I didn’t get to sleep until around 4am, sad I know but this is what our great game does to us. Given 2017, for me season 2018 for the team I love was a success. So to season 2019, by far our biggest signing is the marquee half back Blake Austin. Could he be the final piece in the Wire jigsaw that gets us over the line at Old Trafford and at long last be our year. One noticeable difference between Blake and our previous marquee signing of Tyrone Roberts is that Blake actually wants to be here. Everything that Blake has said indicates he will be seeing his contract with us out. Crucially he has said that his family are happy and settled. I’m know going to admit to something which perhaps I shouldn’t but prior to him signing I didn’t know who Blake Austin was, I don’t watch the NRL and I have a mantra that if they don’t play for the Wire I pay them no attention. Guys I didn’t even know who Andrew Johns was!!! I can see all the raised eyebrows now with you the reader thinking should you really carry on reading the rantings of this man, but as I said I pay no attention to the NRL. Blake Austin could be the final piece of the jigsaw for Warrington this year, but the Wolves have also strengthened the squad wth a couple of intriguing signings (namely Lama Tasi and Jake Mamo) – are you happy with the recruitment as a whole (both in and out)? Is there any other position you would look to strengthen? WF: We struggled massively in 2017, mainly due to carrying deadwood and players that we probably shouldn’t have given contracts to, a lot of fans may not remember us getting rid of Matty Russell early on in the season, the signing of Josh Charnley was very welcome and with a full pre season and starting the season will stand us in good stead. The signings for 2019 are mixed, signings I would have made? Probably not, Two players fans across the league will love are both Blake Austin and Jason Clark, two Aussies who come with massive expectations and reputations. We all know Warrington haven’t had the best history with Aussies but these will certainly, given the time, will prove to be worth it. My one complaint is in the past we’ve often looked to the quick fix and one year contract with a journeyman, we’ve not had the band of youth teams like Wigan and Saints however if you look into our team we have our fair share of players that have progressed through the system and the work being done by the club to catch up to the likes of our neighbours is massive and huge credit to the club, especially appointing a coach to train all the local amateur team coaches weekly. RT: Wire have made 4 other signings, with Jason Clarke again from the NRL being the most notable. Jason is a 2nd rower or loose forward. He comes with accolades from Sam Burgess who says Jason is the best team/club player he has played with. Wire have also signed Lama Tasa and Jake Mamo, both of whom for me will be squad stocking filers, although if Mamo stays fit he may well get his career back on track. Our other signing is Danny Walker a 19 year old hooker from Widnes, Danny is the young Lad who squared up to Chris Hill in a Challenge Cup game a few years ago. I think Danny could well be a great signing for us and will be able to give Daryl Clarke a rest during games. Who should we be looking out for in a Wire shirt this year (and why)? WF: One player who we paid a significant amount for from Cas is Luis Johnson, who played a game against Wigan towards the back end of last year and he’s certainly an unorthodox exciting player who should definitely be given a run of games this season. RT: Whilst he is not a new signing, Ben Currie’s return from almost 2 years of injury will be a massive boost for Wire. Ben is pure class and will be a major player for us in 2019. If Ben stays fit then for me he will be as important to our season as Blake Austin and Daryl Clarke, he is that good. Which of your young players is most likely to break into the first team this year? WF: Danny Walker from Widnes is also one to watch out for especially now given his chance at a bigger club. RT: In terms of young players breaking through Luis Johnson, who we signed from Castleford for £45,000 is one to watch. Luis is a back rower and the club have very high hopes for him. When Luis signed for Wire in December 2017 he was mentioned in the same sentence as Paul Sculthorpe which if he does 50% of what Paul did, Luis will be a great player. The Super 8’s have gone and the top 4 play offs have been replaced with the top 5, theoretically giving the top place team a better chance of reaching the Grand Final – are you in favour of the changes? WF: Look we’ve all had our separate reasons for liking a specific structure, I thought the appointment of Robert Elstone and a breakaway from the RFL was a step in the right direction and with the combined experience I trust the Board in charge and as fans we all hope we can forget the off field troubles and focus on the great athletes we watch week in week out. A longer playoff system will see (hopefully) a more intense and thrilling close to the year so we can all watch the very best in the league. RT: This season sees the Super 8’s being replaced with the top 5. I did like the Super 8’s but felt it unfair that Saints were by far the best team all season but their season came down to one game. This year the top team will get a 2nd bite at the cherry which is more fair. How do you think the Wolves will go in 2019? (Where will they finish, Cup run etc) WF: I think Warrington have to win a trophy, ultimately we’ve spent the money to get us in a position to do so and for the club of our stature, no trophy means we ultimately come short of success, so either trophy would be a plus but of course we would all love that Grand Final win. How do you think the Saints will go in 2019? (Where will they finish, Cup run etc) Which player are you most worried about when we face each other? WF: Saints will be interesting this year, Holbrook will have learnt as many lessons as anyone and we will perhaps see more squad rotation to allow a fresher team to play in the more essential games. Like Warrington, Saints are a club that have to be winning trophies and given the semi final defeats over the past few year I can see them going on to win the LLS and perhaps The Challenge Cup, one player I’m looking forward to seeing if he can make an impact is Joe Batchelor and of course it will be good to see Alex Walmsley back. RT: I think Saints will have one of the best front rows in Super league with Walmsley, Roby & Thompson. Alex Walmsley will be in affect a new signing for Saints, he is a man mountain of a player who would be 1st choice prop in any Super League team. He has everything you want from a prop – strength, passion & aggression. But that said I think Luke Thompson will be even better than Alex in 2019. Luke is only 23 and he will go onto to be as good for Saints as James Graham, he will be that good. If Wire were to sign one player from Saints, Luke Thompson would be at the very top of my list. Other Saints players I rate are Lomax and Percival. This season is Jonny Lomax’s testimonial year having played in the Red Vee since 2009, it does seem that long since Jonny started playing but time flies by when you’ve not won the League since 1950 something. Lomax is like Ben Currie in that he has been plagued with injuries but in 2018 he seemed to stay fit & he was a key player for Saints. In the semi play off game Johnny had an open fracture of his hand but after rub with the magic sponge he carried on playing. This sums up the attitude and balls that players of our great game have. A soccer player would have been airlifted to hospital and still be bed ridden if they’d have suffered the same injury. But our lads are made of steel not paper mâché. Predictions: WF: Top 5: Saints Warrington Leeds Catalans Wigan Grand Final Warrington vs Leeds Champions Warrington Challenge Cup Saints Man Of Steel Jake Connor RT: Top 5. Wire, Wigan, Saints, Catalans & Leeds Grand Final Saints V Wire. Wire to win League Champions. Saints, but only by a point in front of Wire. Challenge Cup. Saints V Wigan final & Saints to win Man of Steel. Firstly I think the MoS ward is not given out correctly. We tend to give it to the best and most skilful player in the season but I think it should be given to the player who displayed the steel a RL player must have such as that shown by Lomax when he played on in the semi with an open fracture. So I think it will go to Blake Austin but if I were to give it to the MoS in the true sense of the award then it should go to Luke Thompson or Daryl Clark.