SL Preview: Warrington’s new era – Is it their year?

It’s been all change at Warrington in the off-season as long-serving coach Tony Smith was replaced by fellow Australian Steve Price.

Prior to Smith, the Wolves were barely regarded as anything more than a mid-table, low-end play-off contender, whereas now their name is almost always mentioned when it comes to trophies.

And that is still the case, despite a terrible 2017 in which they finished in the bottom four and played out their season against Championship clubs, rather than competing for the big prize that has so far eluded them – a Super League title.

It was quite a fall from grace, given they topped the table in 2016, but it has perhaps proven to be the catalyst for a much needed change.

As well as Smith, plenty of players have departed too, enabling Price to perhaps stamp his own authority.

There seems to be a general relief that Smith has now moved on, the players themselves embracing the change, though speaking to a few of them, it does feel that they are all still a bit unsure as to what is ahead.

That may also be in part due to the sheer amount of player turnover, not assisted either by the fact that several key players didn’t join pre-season until the New Year due to their exploits at the World Cup.

Their headline signing is Tyrone Roberts, the NRL star who they hope will fill the void left by Chris Sandow – and hopefully stay around a lot longer to try and guide them to glory.

Both he and Ben Murdoch-Masila will add the star quality that the fans were craving for after an alarming 2017. There is some surprise that Roberts has decided to continue his career in Super League, as he was hitting big things in the NRL, and the Wolves will hope that he doesn’t live to regret his decision.

They have seen quite a few players leave. Brad Dwyer, a useful option at rotation hooker has gone to Leeds after never really kicking on to fulfil his potential, while big forwards Andre Savelio (Brisbane) and Ashton Sims (Toronto) have departed.

Also going to Canada, perhaps surprisingly, was Joe Westerman, for who the Wolves recouped a fee, but the biggest loss was that of Peta Hiku, who cried off homesick back to New Zealand Warriors barely six months in to his stint with the Wolves.

At the moment, there are more questions than answers for the Wolves.

Former Super League Man of Steel Daryl Clark is likely to revert back to an 80 minute hooker, while Kevin Brown’s performances will once again go under scrutiny. He failed to impress in his debut season following his move from Widnes and is determined to put that right. How his partnership with Roberts takes off could be critical, especially as the Wolves need to put last year behind them with a good start.

In many ways, a start against Leeds gives the Wolves the perfect opportunity to banish any bad memories from last season and get their new era off to a cracking start, especially against the Super League champions.

Whether all their pieces will have fallen in to place by then, remains to be seen.

Coach: Steve Price
Assistant: Andrew Henderson
Captain: Chris Hill
Key Man: Tyrone Roberts
One to Watch: Morgan Smith

Ins: Sitaleki Akauola (Penrith), Bryson Goodwin (South Sydney), Tyrone Roberts (Gold Coast), Ben Murdoch-Masila (Salford), Mitch Brown (Leigh), Luis Johnson (Castleford)
Outs: Brad Dwyer (Leeds), Rhys Evans (Leigh), Kurt Gidley (retired), Andre Savelio (Brisbane), Sam Wilde (Widnes), Joe Westerman (Toronto), Peta Hiku (NZ Warriors), Ashton Sims (Toronto), Will Dagger (Hull KR), Matty Blythe, Kevin Penny (both retired), Lewis Hatton (Rochdale), Benjamin Julien (Catalans), Ben Pomeroy (Lezignan)

Squad: 1 Stefan Ratchford, 2 Tom Lineham, 3 Bryson Goodwin, 4 Ryan Atkins, 5 Matty Russell, 6 Kevin Brown, 7 Tyrone Roberts, 8 Chris Hill, 9 Daryl Clark, 10 Mike Cooper, 11 Ben Currie, 12 Jack Hughes, 13 Ben Murdoch-Masila, 14 Dom Crosby, 15 Dec Patton, 16 Sitaleki Akauola, 17 Joe Philbin, 18 Toby King, 19 George King, 20 Harvey Livett, 21 Mitch Brown, 22 Morgan Smith, 23 Jack Johnson, 25 Pat Moran, 26 Taylor Prell, 34 Ben Westwood.

Prediction: 6th