RELEGATION MAY be the word on most pundits’ lips when it comes to Wakefield Trinity Wildcats’ prospects this year, but that doesn’t bother boss Richard Agar.
Wildcats begin their competitive campaign tomorrow away to First Utility Super League’s big spenders Salford Red Devils.
It is the start of what will be a crucial season for cash-strapped Wakefield and Agar is confident – despite the odds stacked against his team – they will rise to the challenge.
“There’s been a lot of negativity now relegation’s back,” Agar said. “The media have been writing who their favourites are for the drop and I think we feature in most people’s list.
“But for us, that does not affect us one little bit. If we want to read that and take it on board, that’s probably the team we will become.
“But we are determined we will be deciding who we are this year, not any pundits or experts in newspaper columns.
“I think our boys are pretty determined. We have had some experiences of being here before a little bit and we will cultivate the right spirit and atmosphere and the right level of competitive edge and consistency in our game to be a good team.”
Wildcats have had a difficult off-season, with 10 players leaving and their three overseas recruits arriving only last weekend and Agar admitted they are not as ready as he would have wanted.
But the coach insisted nobody at the club is making excuses. He said: “Would I have preferred four or five weeks with the new signings here, to acclimatise to the conditions and find our style of play – of course I would.
“Who wants a four-session pre-season with three players, one of them the scrum-half? That is pretty obvious.
“But we’ve known for a while this was likely to be the case and those are the cards we’ve been dealt.
“We are confident we will look like a team, don’t worry about that. But we are a team we feel will improve, evolve and get better as the season goes on.”
Agar added: “I am okay with the squad we’ve got.
“The circumstances we’ve faced and losing the quality we did was painful, but at the same time the survival of the club is always the most important thing.
“We have got some value for money signings and to be able to capture the guys we have done. I think we have done okay given the circumstances.”
The pressure will be on Salford tomorrow, in their first game as the re-branded Red Devils and featuring their new all-star side.
“It will be a great atmosphere,” said Agar. “There’s been a lot of noise and anticipation and movement and build-up around them and it’s a great time to go and take part in a game which is the dawn of a new era for Salford.
“There will be a lot of excitement surrounding their team. It will take a bit of time before we see the best of them, but I’m sure when they hit their straps they are capable of fulfilling the ambition that seems to be surrounding them.”
Wildcats will be without Richard Moore (hamstring), Chris Annakin (knee) and Ben Shulver (pectoral muscle) due to injury, but Pita Godinet, Scott Anderson, Paul McShane, Matt Ryan, Jimmy Keinhorst, Daniel Smith and Luke Briscoe could all make their debut.
Salford Red Devils from: Ashurst, Chase, Dixon, Griffin, Hansen, Hock, Howarth, Johnson, Lee, McPherson, Meli, Morley, Mullaney, Puletua, T Smith, Sa’u, Tasi, Walton, Williams.
Wakefield Wildcats from: Mathers, Fox, Collis, Lyne, Sykes, Godinet, Anderson, McShane, Raleigh, Lauitiiti, Kirmond, Washbrook, Wildie, Ryan, Tautai, Keinhorst, Walshaw, D Smith, Briscoe.
Referee: James Child (Batley).
Kick-off: Tomorrow, 3pm.