WAKEFIELD TRINITY WILDCATS are starting from fresh in the First Utility Qualifiers, forward Matty Ashurst says.
Wildcats kick-off their campaign away to Ashurst’s former side Salford Red Devils tomorrow.
Wakefield finished bottom of the table, one place and 11 points behind Salford, but points do not carry over from the weekly rounds into the middle-eights and Ashurst reckons it is like beginning the season again.
After just three Super League wins all year, Wakefield need to finish in the top-three after the next seven games or win the fourth versus fifth play-off to avoid dropping into the Kingstone Press Championship.
“The season obviously hasn’t panned out how we wanted, so we have got to look at this like a fresh competition now,” Ashurst said. “Everyone is starting on zero points and we’re looking to start well on Sunday.
“I think if we start well we can build on the back of that, so this game will be massive for us.”
Coach Brian Smith has had seven games to prepare his squad for the Super-8s and Wildcats’ bid for top-flight survival.
Ashurst said: “He has changed the team quite a bit.
“He has tried to pick what our best team is going into the eights.
“He has had a bit of time to look at everyone and all the boys will be ready to go on Sunday.
“As a group we know it is a fresh competition and we’ve got a real chance to cause a shake-up after not performing the way we wanted to in the season. That’s what we will be looking to do.”
Salford beat Wakefield twice in the regular rounds, but Ashurst has yet to face his former side.
“It has been a frustrating season for me,” he conceded. “I want to be playing and be on the field, but I tore my abductor.
“It was off the bone, it was a pretty bad injury and I had a couple of operations, so I have lot of time out. I haven’t really had a long-term injury before, so it has been pretty tough.
“I am glad to be back playing now, I am fully fit and I’m looking forward to this new play-offs system.”
Meanwhile, Smith has revealed Stuart Howarth will miss the rest of the year following surgery on a wrist injury.
And the coach said there is “almost no chance” of Simon Grix, who has joined Wakefield on loan from Warrington Wolves, featuring this season, after 11 months out with a broken leg.