SL Preview: Can Wakefield repeat last year’s form?

Drew Darbyshire

Wakefield Trinity had an impressive 2017 campaign but the big question is – can they back it up again this year?

Head coach Chris Chester earned plenty of credit last season, no more so than from Rugby League legend Gary Schofield, who has tipped him to become coach of Leeds Rhinos in future years.

It will be interesting to see how big of an impact John Kear had at the club when he was head of rugby. The vastly experienced coach has moved onto pastures new with Bradford Bulls in League 1. Did he have an impact on the team or was he just a good mentor for Chester? We’ll soon find out.

Trinity have now replaced Kear, having brought Michael Monaghan into the club as Chester’s assistant coach. Monaghan has a lot of experience in the NRL and Super League, making nearly 300 professional appearances in his playing career while having coaching experience too, having been assistant coach at Catalans Dragons for the previous two seasons.

They’ve added a lot of size to their forward pack as well. Pauli Pauli, a 19-stone forward, has joined the club from Newcastle Knights while they pulled off a major coup in signing blockbusting second-rower Justin Horo. Young forward Jordan Baldwinson will also be pushing for a spot in the 17-man squad.

Ryan Hampshire is a decent signing as well because he provides a lot of versatility, being able to play at full-back, half-back or on the wing. He could be their secret weapon in 2018.

The one to watch is definitely Tom Johnstone. The 22-year-old winger broke his leg last year and didn’t have the season like he did in 2017 because of it, so he will be excited for what will hopefully be an injury-free year ahead. Could he possibly gain an England call-up?

On paper, Wakefield have got a strong squad but they have only been mixing it up with the top six in the last year or two so it will be interesting to see if they can finish in the top six again.

Head Coach: Chris Chester

Assistant Coach: Michael Monaghan

Captain: Danny Kirmond

Key Man: Liam Finn

One to Watch: Tom Johnstone

Ins: Pauli Pauli (Newcastle Knights), Jordan Baldwinson (Leeds Rhinos), Justin Horo (Catalans Dragons), Ryan Hampshire (Leigh Centurions)

Outs: Sam Williams (Canberra Raiders), Judah Mazive (York City Knights), Mitch Allgood (St George Illawarra Dragons), Mikey Sio (Released)

Squad: 1 Scott Grix, 2 Tom Johnstone, 3 Bill Tupou, 4 Reece Lyne, 5 Ben Jones-Bishop, 6 Jacob Miller, 7 Liam Finn, 8 David Fifita, 9 Kyle Wood, 10 Anthony England, 11 Matty Ashurt, 12 Danny Kirmond, 13 Tyler Randell, 14 Justin Horo, 15 Pauli Pauli, 16 Tinirau Arona, 17 Craig Huby, 18 Joe Arundel, 19 James Batchelor, 20 Keegan Hirst, 21 Max Jowitt, 22 Jordan Baldwinson, 23 Chris Annakin, 24 Mason Caton-Brown, 25 Ryan Hampshire, 26 Luke Hooley, 27 Jordan Crowther, 28 Lee Kershaw, 29 Lewis Wray, 30 Christian Ackroyd.

Prediction: 7th