COACH JAMES Webster is under no illusions about the size of the task facing his Wakefield Trinity Wildcats side this year.
Wildcats finished 12th in First Utility Super League last season – and the competition has since been reduced by two clubs.
That means, out of all the teams in the competition, Wakefield will have to make the most improvement if they are to avoid the lottery of rugby league’s new Qualifiers, pitting Super League’s bottom four after 23 rounds against the Kingstone Press Championship’s leading quartet.
The odds are stacked against Wildcats, who will be operating on a smaller budget than their rivals, but Webster insisted he and his players are “excited” about the challenge.
“We’re looking forward to the season ahead,” said the Aussie, who took charge when Richard Agar left the club mid-way through last season.
“We do have to make some improvements, but I think there’s a lot of improvement in the squad.
“We’ve added well in the positions we needed to and while we’d like some more depth in certain spots, I think we’ve done really well in recruiting how we have.
“It is going to be a challenge, but it’s one we can do and we’ve proven we can do it before. No- one expects us to do anything other than make up the numbers, but we believe in what we can do and we’re looking forward to getting started.”
New faces in the squad this year include Craig Hall (from Hull Kingston Rovers), Jacob Miller (ex-Hull), Lopini Paea (Catalans Dragons), Ian Kirke (Leeds Rhinos), Mickael Simon (Catalans) and Matty Ashurst (Salford Red Devils).
Webster reckons Wildcats have more pace in their team than last term and have also added greater depth in the middle of the field.
He insisted: “We think every single person we’ve brought in will add something to us.”
Getting points on the board early will be crucial this year, with the competition due to split in May.
Wildcats kick-off away to Castleford Tigers on Sunday and Webster said: “Traditionally Wakefield have started slowly.
“We’ve tried to improve that this year with the amount of fitness work we’ve done.
“Every team will want to start well, because 23 rounds will come around pretty quickly.
“If you were two wins from 10 or something like that – which has been typical for us over the last few years – then it will be hard to make the top-eight.
“We have been known for coming home reasonably well, but we lose four rounds this year. So we need to start well, just like all teams do.”