LIFE AS a Wildcat has been a pleasant surprise for Cook Islands international Tinirau Arona.
The 26-year-old forward admitted he did not know what to expect after joining Wakefield Trinity Wildcats from Cronulla Sharks on a one-year deal, but his impressions so far are all positive.
“I am enjoying it and I am very excited for the season ahead,” said Arona, who has been one of the stand-out performers in Wildcats’ two trial games so far.
“I didn’t expect it to be this good! That sounds weird, but back home I was told to come here with an open mind and expect the worst with the weather conditions and field conditions.
“I have come over here with exactly that and I have been really impressed with what Wakefield is. Everyone here has been really welcoming and they’ve made it really comfortable for me.”
Arona was aware he was joining a team who finished well adrift at the foot of Super League in 2015, but insisted Wildcats’ prospects for 2016 look bright.
He said: “I heard some stories about last season and how the season went.
“It was a bit of a tough season for them, so coming here I didn’t know what to expect with the quality of our squad.
“After the first week or two at training I knew this squad has something special to offer this year. I think Brian Smith has done a really good job with his recruitment and also his coaching throughout this pre-season.
“Personally, I think we will do a really good job and if we continue to work hard through the season I am confident in the squad we have. I am looking forward to the season ahead.”
Smith has rebuilt Wildcats’ squad over the off-season and Arona reckons they have the ingredients to push for a place in First Utility Super League’s top-eight.
“I think there’s a really good combination of experience and youth,” he said. “We’ve got experience in Finny [Liam Finn] and Anthony Tupou – who is the oldest player in the squad, as I am trying to remind everyone!
“But also there’s some youth as well with Ben Jones-Bishop and Milky [Jacob Miller].
“I think we do have a good combination of experience and youth and if we use that to our advantage this season we could do well.”
Wildcats travel to Castleford Tigers for their third pre-season derby on Sunday, but Arona admitted he can’t wait for the real business to start.
“It is hard to measure yourself in those conditions, I felt like I was running on sand,” he said of Wildcats’ win on a heavy pitch at Featherstone Rovers earlier this month.
“But we have been training for the last two months and I am just itching to play some good footy, especially coming into the competition games.
“I want to see what Super League is like and I am looking forward to us making our stamp on the competition.”