Trail-blazer Andy Ellis believes Wakefield Trinity Wildcats are a club on the up.
The Derby-born hooker was Wildcats’ first major signing ahead of the 2012 season and another 17 have followed as new boss Richard Agar attempts to build a squad capable of challenging for a Super League play-off spot.
It is a far cry from exactly a year ago, when cash-strapped Wildcats were teetering on the brink of administration and their prospects of receiving a new Super League licence seemed bleak.
Andrew Glover’s take-over and Crusaders’ withdrawal from the top-flight safeguarded Wildcats’ immediate future and their long-term prospects will be made clearer when the result of the public inquiry into their proposed move to a new stadium at Newmarket is announced.
Ellis and his new colleagues have no control over the stadium development, but he believes they can revive Wildcats’ flagging fortunes on the pitch.
“I was the first new player to come in and what they told me was they have got the franchise and they need to build the squad,” Ellis said.
“The guy in charge was happy to put his money on the line to back us and he has put together a good team.
“We have got good prospects in the future with, hopefully, the new ground and three years of Super League.
“With the team, the coach and the backroom staff, I think we have the possibility of creating a few surprises.”
Ellis was new-look Wildcats’ opening try scorer in the 26-10 defeat at champions Leeds Rhinos five days ago.
His close-range effort gave the visitors an early lead and Wakefield were competitive throughout, despite being out-scored by five tries to two.
Ellis reckons that first hit-out went as well as could be expected and he is confident Wildcats will be better for the game time together.
“It has been a long eight weeks of tough training,” Ellis admitted. “I have been getting to know the boys, there’s a lot of new faces, but it has been really good and we seem to be gelling quite well.
“On the training park it is all going well and we all get on with each other. When you get on the pitch for the first game everything is going to be different, everyone’s tired and fatigued, calls get interrupted by the crowd and that sort of thing.
“It is difficult when you play your first game and we were scratchy against Leeds, but there is a lot to work on and we took a lot of positives from it. It was good to be able to get a video of us playing, have a look and see what we can improve on.”
Ellis, 27, played in the lower divisions with Hull KR and Barrow Raiders before joining Harlequins, where he scored 11 tries in 37 Super League appearances in 2010 and 2011.
“I went well last season and hopefully I can kick on this year and have a flying start into the league,” he said.
“We have got a new team and it is all a bit different, but all I can do is do my best. The squad’s there and now all we need to do is gel it together.
“That’s only going to happen through games, so in the next three friendlies we’ll work on it and hopefully we’ll get better as we go along.”
Meanwhile, coach Agar confirmed forward Andy Raleigh suffered a dislocated finger in the game against Leeds, but will be available for Wildcats’ forthcoming trial games.
“He’s okay,” said Agar. “We came through unscathed and it was good to get a game under our belts.”
Sheffield Eagles visit Rapid Solicitors Stadium next Friday and Agar said: “The team will drastically change from Boxing Day.
“It will be first-team squad members, but it will be a younger side with a sprinkling of experience in there.”