HARD WORK and early starts are paying off for Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, prop Nick Scruton reckons.
Scruton is confident Wildcats’ tough preparations will stand them in good stead when they kick off in First Utility Super League at home to Widnes Vikings on February 7.
Coach Brian Smith’s men have been in training since November and began their warm-up campaign with a morale-boosting 14-6 victory at treble-winners Leeds Rhinos on Boxing Day.
Wildcats’ performance suggested the effort put in over the past two months is bearing fruit and they will be looking for the same on Sunday, at Kingstone Press Championship neighbours Featherstone Rovers.
The Super League outfit have been using Rovers’ training facilities and Scruton reported: “Brian was saying he’s done 30-odd pre-seasons and he has been impressed with the way everyone has been putting in.
“It has been hard, we’ve been having early starts. We’ve been doing wrestling sessions at 6.30am, so you have to arrive at 6.15 to do some testing and you’re on the mat 15 minutes later.
“It’s tough, but it is paying off and people are seeing the benefits now. Everyone’s trying their socks off and we are all trying to improve and set personal bests.
“Last year our gym was in a bunker at Wakefield. This year we are using the facilities at Featherstone, which are really good.
“It makes everything so much easier. We have got more staff this year so there is more attention to detail in weights groups and it is one of the best pre-seasons I have ever had.”
Scruton will not feature on Sunday due to a leg injury, though coach Smith is hopeful it is not a serious concern.
Wildcats will face Featherstone without another front-rower Scott Anderson, after he suffered a badly broken nose against Leeds.
Hooker Scott Moore, who sustained a biceps injury in the first minute of the Boxing Day derby, had surgery this week and will be sidelined for up to two months.
Liam Finn is also expected to sit out the clash against his former club.
Injuries proved costly in 2015, when Wildcats finished 11 points adrift at the foot of Super League, but Scruton feels their new-look squad is in better shape to cope.
“Lack of depth cost us last year,” Scruton admitted.
“We started the season well with two wins and we pushed St Helens all the way, but then we picked up a few injuries and they hurt us. It is a long, tough season and you are going to pick up injuries, so you need a big squad and we have definitely got that depth.
“This week we had a middles session and there were eight props training.
“We have got competition for places and there’s no excuses.”
Smith, who took over midway through last season, has revamped Wildcats’ preparations and Scruton said his planning and expertise has shone through.
“We’ve had to show a bit of faith in Brian,” he admitted.
“It has been a different pre-season to what anybody has ever had.
“It has been so wet we’ve had to do a lot of indoors stuff at Featherstone.
“Usually you get flogged on the pitch and you run mile after mile, but we’ve done lots of speed work and wrestling indoors.
“Nobody knew what our fitness would be like, but we went really well when we played Leeds, so it shows Brian knows what he is on about!”
Meanwhile, Smith has been appointed as a consultant to the Serbian national team as they bid to qualify for next year’s World Cup.
Serbia face Wales – who are coached by Batley’s ex-Wakefield Trinity Wildcats boss John Kear – and Italy in European qualifiers later this year.