THE PRESSURE will be on Wakefield Trinity Wildcats next season, but prop Andy Raleigh reckons that is a good thing.
With two clubs expected to drop out of Super League at the end of the campaign, cash-strapped Wakefield are already being tipped for the chop.
But Raleigh says they have been in similarly tough situations in the past and he’s confident the sport’s great battlers can survive yet again.
A host of senior players have left the club since news of Wildcats’ latest financial crisis broke two months ago.
With the likes of Paul Aiton, Tim Smith, Kyle Amor, Ben Cockayne, Justin Poore, Oliver Wilkes, Frankie Mariano and Vince Mellars all having moved on, experience is in short supply.
That will add more weight to Raleigh’s shoulders, but he insisted: “It’s not a big focus, what people are saying about us or what they are tipping to happen.
“This is my third year at Wakefield now and we’ve probably been in a similar situation every year, especially the first one. We were under pressure as a group of people, but we came through and we qualified for the play-offs when everybody had written us off mid-way through the season. If there is pressure there, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. We’ve shown it perhaps brings out our competitive nature and we want to prove ourselves capable of winning games. It is not a bad thing for us, we’ve been there before and proved people wrong.”
Wildcats are three weeks into pre-season, which could give them a head start on clubs who have players involved in the World Cup.
Conditioner Martin Clawson has been in charge – with boss Richard Agar and his assistant James Webster on coaching duty with France – and Raleigh said: “It has been tough, but good.
“With Martin Clawson getting his hands on us we’ve been in a boot camp-type period, with plenty of conditioning drills.
“We’ve been getting in early – 6.30 some mornings – and it is what you expect of pre-season. It is always tough, but it is good to get back with the lads, enjoying the banter.”
Raleigh insisted the mood in the camp is good, despite the uncertainty over the club’s financial position and the succession of departures.
“There’s people still to come in, I assume,” he said. “It is just a case of the people who are in working hard.”
It will be a big start to the year for Raleigh, who has been granted a three-month testimonial.
He will receive a share of the gate receipts when Wildcats take on his former club Huddersfield Giants in a pre-season game on January 26.
Raleigh is an ambassador for the Laura Crane Youth Cancer Trust, which will be receiving a donation from his testimonial fund – including 25 per cent of the profits from a testimonial calendar. The calendar features pictures of scantily-clad Wildcats players posing at the city’s National Mining Museum, as well as shots of them in rugby action.