A top-eight place is Wakefield Trinity Wildcats’ realistic aim this year, captain Danny Kirmond says.
Wildcats ended the 2015 regular season 11 points adrift at the bottom of the table and survived in First Utility Super League only by beating Bradford Bulls in the ‘million pound match’.
But coach Brian Smith has had a full pre-season with his new-look side and Kirmond believes they will go into Sunday’s opener at home to Widnes Vikings in good shape and ambitious mood.
“I think it is a realistic target,” he said of the top eight.
“It is not a target we are setting in stone, but I think if we perform to the ability we’ve got in the squad and we match the work we’ve put in in pre-season, why not?
“Why can’t we push on and take one of the spots in the top eight? Ultimately the goal is to improve on last year and that’s not being in the million pound game. After that, who knows?”
Kirmond reckons Wildcats have a deeper squad now. He added: “Last year, if you had a bad game you’d still be playing, simply because we didn’t have anyone else.
“That was no fault of the coach Webbo [James Webster]; he just didn’t have a big enough squad.
“It was decimated by injuries and it wasn’t a big squad in the first place. You were playing last year regardless of whether you were injured or you were performing well.
“That’s never a good environment to be in as a professional and it doesn’t get the best out of you. This year we’ve brought players in and every position is covered by two or three good players. You are going to have to be playing well to get a starting spot in the team.”
Kirmond reckons Wakefield have advanced during pre-season.
“There’s been a lot of hard work put in, as there always is, but I think there’s been a bit of a different view towards it this year,” he stated.
“We’ve done a lot of things we feel will be beneficial. There’s not been a lot of mindless running around, we have done a lot of work on skill and power and I think everyone’s reaping the benefits and feeling in good shape going into the season.”
Wildcats were crushed 32-6 at Castleford Tigers in their full-scale trial game, two weeks before the opening match, but Kirmond believes that could be a blessing in disguise.
“You never want to lose against Castleford; it is a big derby whenever we play them,” he said. “But I think it served its purpose as a game. It showed us where we are and what we need to work on.
“Castleford are a genuine top-four contender now, so to play against them was a good benchmark for us. We weren’t at our best and I think Cas played really well.
“They looked in great shape and put us to the sword at times, but it was a good benchmark of where we are and it probably brought everyone down to earth.”