Will Wakefield hit the high Super League watermark they set themselves in 2017?
Captain: Danny Kirmond
Coach: Chris Chester
2017 Position: Regular season – 5th. Super 8s – 5th
Key player – Tom Johnstone
Welcome back Tom Johnstone. The winger had been ripping up Super League with his finishing abilities before an untimely knee injury last April against Catalans Dragons.
This is a man who won Super League’s Young Player of the Year award in 2016 and scored seven tries in 12 appearances at the start of 2017.
A genuine superstar in the making, Johnstone was on the verge of England selection given his form and could have forced his way into the World Cup squad.
He has got a stunning long-range try in his locker and it will be interesting to see whether he has retained his pace following knee reconstruction.
A hat-trick in the pre-season win over Halifax suggests so!
Fresh Face – Pauli Pauli
There is nothing like the turnover of playing staff we’ve so often seen in a Wakefield off-season in the past. This is reflective of the stability the club has achieved under Chris Chester in the last two seasons.
And consequently, they’ve been able to make a quality signing instead. Pauli Pauli has come in from the NRL, joining from the Newcastle Knights after a broken leg wrecked his 2017 campaign.
Pauli has taken the chance to resurrect his career in Super League, and Chester is backing him to add the X-Factor to a Wakefield pack already containing the explosive David Fifita.
With those two either side of Tyler Randell, when he recovers from his pre-season injury, Wakefield have a front row to be reckoned with in 2018.
One to watch – Max Jowitt
Wakefield’s conveyor belt of young talent is impressive but keep an eye out for one young star who has already made an impression at the club. Max Jowitt’s exceptional performances in 2016 won him the Albert Goldthorpe Rookie of the Year award but his progress stalled somewhat in 2017.
Jowitt found himself behind Scott Grix for the number one spot, and the form of the veteran restricted him to just three appearances in 2017.
Jowitt impressed in Trinity’s Boxing Day defeat to Leeds though and he’s also capable of playing in the half-backs if necessary.
But it’s not just Grix aiming for the full-back position. There’s another talented prospect in Luke Hooley on the scene too. If Jowitt is to realise the potential he showed back in 2016, then 2018 is a must-do year.
Reasons for optimism
Is there a better time to be a Wakefield fan? Stadium talks appear to be progressing at last with the club hoping to have a new facility by 2020 on the site of their Belle Vue ground (or Mobile Rocket Stadium as it’s currently known).
Last year, the club progressed again under Chris Chester to finish fifth, and only narrowly missed out on a semi-final spot, finishing just a point behind fourth-placed St Helens.
They’ve got flyers on the wings in Johnstone, Ben Jones-Bishop and Mason Caton-Brown and the half-backs play with an expansive style capable of releasing that pace.
It’s great to watch but will they be able to build on the successes of 2017?
Wakefield Trinity vs Salford Red Devils
February 9, 2018, 7:30pm
Get Sky Sports Get a Sky Sports pass Reasons for concern
There is no doubt Wakefield overachieved last season when they finished above Super League big guns Wigan and Warrington despite having one of the smallest budgets in the league.
Is it realistic to expect them to match it, especially given the way the Wolves have strengthened over the winter? Chris Chester has done a sensational job since arriving in 2016, boasting an impressive win rate of nearly 50 per cent.
But it’s important that if Trinity do go through a rough patch in 2017, they keep faith in what’s brought them this far. Another Super 8s finish would still be a success.
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