Exclusive: Warrington Wolves tackle Ant Middleton pre-season camp as Drinkwater gives unique insight into Burgess, Gleeson coaching philosophies

John Davidson
Josh Drinkwater Warrington Wolves Alamy

Josh Drinkwater in action for Warrington Wolves in 2023 - Alamy

Josh Drinkwater says an intense Army camp and an overhaul of Warrington’s systems by new coach Sam Burgess has the whole Wolves squad pulling in the same direction ahead of the new Super League season. 

Warrington were put through their paces just before Christmas in an intense three-day camp run by Ant Middleton, the former UK special forces soldier and chief instructor on TV programme SAS: Who Dares Wins.

The Wire first team spent several days together in a location near Dover conducting exercises including hiking, swimming and climbing that focused on building mental strength and bonding.

Drinkwater, who has completed similar army camps before in the NRL, told Love Rugby League that it was extreme but very beneficial and brought the team closer together.

“We were pretty much cold and wet for three days straight,” he said.

“It’s all pretty much of a blur. It was focused on mental roughness, they woke us up in the middle of the night, we were getting flogged and had sleep deprivation.

“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I quite enjoyed it. Ant Middleton was great.

“Everyone ripped in and came together.”

Sam Burgess era underway at Warrington Wolves: ‘I can’t speak highly enough of him’

Burgess has taken over at the Halliwell Jones Stadium after a disappointing 2023 campaign.

Warrington finished sixth last season, with coach Daryl Powell sacked in July.

The Wolves have brought in Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Rodrick Tai and Zane Musgrove from Australia and new recruits Wesley Bruines, Brad Dwyer and Sam Powell from Super League.

Drinkwater says ex-NRL star Burgess and new assistant coach Martin Gleeson have made a big impact at Warrington.

“I can’t speak highly enough of Sam,” the half-back said.

“He’s very direct, you know where you stand with him. He’s really down to earth. He’s brought in all new attacking and defensive systems.

“All our calls have changed. We’ve been starting from scratch. Sam’s building the club, the proof in the pudding will be when we start playing games.”

Josh Drinkwater hails new Wire assistant Martin Gleeson: ‘He’s the best attacking coach I’ve had’

Former Super League centre and Great Britain international Gleeson joined the Wolves set-up in August.

The 43-year-old has worked as an assistant at Salford Red Devils and Featherstone Rovers, and as an attack coach at in rugby union with Wasps and the England national team.

Drinkwater is full of praise for Gleeson’s influence and the new attacking style that will see him revert to a game-organising position as a number seven and free up halves partner George Williams to roam the field.

“Gleese (Gleeson) is the best attacking coach I’ve had,” the Australian told Love Rugby League.

“I’ve really enjoyed being under him. He’s constantly sending me clips and videos of attacking plays.

“This season I’ll play a more traditional role, me and George won’t be split on each side of the ruck.

“I’ll have a more controlling role. George will be freed up to play what he says. It’s felt really smooth so far.

“Everyone’s roles are really clear. I’m very confident about how things are looking.” 

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