Wakefield Wildcats upbeat for the tests ahead

Stalwart half-back Ben Jeffries is in confident mood at the start of what will be a make-or-break year for Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.

With plans for a new stadium clouded in uncertainty, Wildcats' long-term future in engage Super League is hanging in the balance.

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What happens off the field is out of Jeffries' hands, but the 30-year-old Aussie feels Wildcats' youthful, new-look squad can make an impact on the competition in 2011.

"It is a massive year for the club – like all clubs – and it is our last year at Belle Vue as well," said Jeffries, who rejoined Wildcats ahead of last season, after a stint at Bradford Bulls.

"It is a club that has been a massive part of my life for nearly a decade.

"I am looking forward to the season. Before that there is a bit of hard work to do, but I think the future looks good with all the young guys coming through."

Coach John Kear and his Wakefield players now have an idea of where they are and what needs to be done following the 40-22 defeat at Leeds Rhinos in their opening pre-season game three days ago.

The scores were level deep into the first half, but Rhinos pulled away to lead 40-6 with 20 minutes to go before Wakefield grabbed three unanswered tries to give the scoreline some respectability.

"We don't take too much notice of the scoreboard at this time of year," Jeffries insisted. "It is just about getting your timing and combinations, and that sort of thing.

"We have got a lot of new blokes – half the squad is new – so we need to build combinations and get comfortable and get to know each other and each other's plays.

"Just doing the basic little things is probably what we were looking for, but one thing that came out of it is that we definitely know we are fit.

"We still need to work on combinations, our ball work and defence. We haven't done much of that because of the weather, but I think the next month we will really ramp that up leading into the season."

Jeffries reckons Wildcats can tidy up the mistakes which cost them in their opening hit-out. Leeds punished Wakefield's errors in the first half, but the game was more even after the break, when the visitors began to hold on to the ball.

"We had a very simple game plan," said the stand-off. "It was errors especially late in the first half, that cost us.

"But towards the back end of the game our fitness showed through, we held the ball and we completed at nearly 90 per cent.

"We won the second half, so there are some encouraging signs.

"We've got some young blokes and Saturday's game will give them a lot of experience.

"For the experienced blokes we are just getting our timing and getting

our legs ready."

Wildcats' New Year's Day team included rookie recruits Paul Johnson, Stuart Howarth and Josh Veivers, alongside youngsters Gareth Potts, Matty Wildie, James Davey, Kieran Hyde and Russ Spiers.

With the emphasis at the club now largely on youth, veteran Jeffries – who has more than 200 Super League appearances under his belt – feels there's a new enthusiasm in the Wakefield camp.

"I can't applaud the young kids enough," he said. "Their attitude to training has been fantastic.

"It has driven us experienced blokes with them. I am looking forward to playing next to these young blokes and I hope they are looking forward to playing with me.

"John (coach John Kear) is big on English players and on youth. That's one thing that happens at this club, young fellas do get a crack at Super League.

"I am sure you will see some kids shining through the year."

Wildcats' second-half rally at Leeds suggested improvements in attitude have been made over the off-season.

It would have been easy to throw the towel in – as they did at times last year – but Jeffries insisted: "The spirit was really good after the game.

"We got in a huddle and said it was a good hit-out, but we can learn from the mistakes we made and move on to the next game, which is Dewsbury a week on Sunday."