Webster wants good start for Wakefield as new structure beds down

Wakefield coach James Webster thinks that the Super League restructure will provide plenty of entertainment for fans of the sport.

He also acknowledges, however, that there might be some issues as the new structure gets settled in. A good start will be vital for his team, though, as well as everyone else.

“We’re really looking forward to getting the season started, the players have had enough training,” he said.

“We feel reasonably well prepared. You’re not quite sure until you’ve played a couple of games how you’ll go, but we’ve given ourselves a chance of doing better than last year.

“It’s what you do on field that matters. We get no media attention really. We are tipped to come last by everybody, probably rightly so on last year.

“We are confident if we can improve and get some more wins, we’ve got a chance.

“Every coach will be saying the same – you need to start well. The teams that stated the best last year finished the top 8.

“Wakefield are traditionally a team over last three years that have come home hard, but started really poorly in recent years

“We’ve identified that we want to start quickly. Twelve teams can’t start quicky though.”

As well as the start of the season, though, Webster knows that the new structue also means a strong finish is important.

Once the league splits into the three eight-team sections, the real stress begins for coaches, as they try to decide on team selection and potential new recruits for the next season.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say the last seven weeks will be really interesting no matter what division you’ll be in,” he added.

“I’ve got a few opinions that there’ll be some teething problems first year, but in saying that I’m more than willing to give it a go and see how it goes.

“It’s a lot easier if you’re Wigan and Saints and you can buy people from the very first day.

“There’s gonna be six or seven clubs who are going to find it hard to recruit for next year until late, simply because they won’t be sure what division they’ll be in.

“That will come later. It depends where the land lies come round 20, you’ll start to re-assess there.

“If you’re on borderline of the top eight, you need to make a call whether you think you’ll be in or not. Do you rest people up and keep them for the last seven games?”

“It all depends how well you start.

“If you start well, and you’re well and truly in the top eight, and come June everyone knows, recruiting won’t be problem.

“If you’re not quite in,  and June and July come round, it’s harder to recruit.

“Other sports do it, they recruit late. There’s still going to be a lot of people on the market, it’ll just have to be done later.”

If Wakefield do not make the top eight, then they will find themselves in the four-team group which joins the top four Championship teams.

Webster will then face the additional challenge of ensuring that his team remain in Super League. This will be tough, with some ambitious teams in the Championship, who have recruited well during the winter.

“We’re not worried about being knocked out, but the Championship has got a lot of talent,” he said.

“I really like the look of Leigh, Bradford have come down and look strong, London have probably got a stronger team than they had last year, Featherstone have been really strong for long period of time.

“The new structure gives them something to play for, the Championship has been neglected for a long time, and I’m happy they have something to play for.”

Webster is happy with the way the Wildcats have recruited in the off-season this time around, adding players like halfback Tim Smith to the squad.

“For our budget, we’ve recruited really well,” he explained.

“It’s no secret that we run on very small budget compared to other clubs.

“We’ve got mix of experience and people with points to prove. Traditionally, Wakefield have recruited players with a point to prove, and thats no different this year, and hopefully we can get the best out of them.

Tim Smith has been the heart and soul of our team, he came back and played outstandingly. It’s no coincidence our form improved.

Jacob Miller reminds me of Tim. The likes of Paul Aiton, Dean Collis, Kyle Amor and Ben Cockayne all came looking for change and went on to bigger prizes.

Paul Aiton won a trophy last year. Wakey is good place to get hunger back and out there again.”

This is the first preseason that Webster has been through as the man in charge at a club. Only 35, it is not that long since he was playing himself, and he still relishes the big Super League occasions.

For Wakefield, the season opens with a derby against local rivals Castleford, and Webster is taking a strong squad into the game.

“It’s my first proper pre season,” he said.

“It’s busy and time consuming, but I’ve really enjoyed it.

“There’s always something that comes along that you didn’t expect to happen. It’s a bit of learning curve things, but we prepared well and we’ll be ready for the first game.

“I miss playing. There are always some games during the year that you come to, and you are really keen to play.

“I’m only 35 still, there are a couple of boys in my team who are older than me.

“There’s those places and grounds that I always like going to, I still enjoy that.

“Cas is one of those. I always enjoyed rolling up to Cas, it’s a great place to play. Wakey v Cas will be something special.

Ian Kirke definitely won’t be fit. Other than that, it’s looking pretty good. There have been a lot of niggles over preseason, but we’re probably looking at 24 being available.”

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