I was at the Halliwell Jones Stadium for Sunday’s round 13 Super League match between Warrington and Salford.
To say the game was a damp squib would be an insult to the most moistened of squibs, if there is such a prize in the squib community.
I’d go as far to say writing a report on the First Annual Damp Squib Awards would be far more interesting than writing about Warrington’s 24-20 win over Salford at the weekend.
Warrington were missing several first team regulars, either through injury or through Tony Smith’s choice.
Those rested include Brett Hodgson, Chris Bridge, Lee Briers and Ben Westwood, while Adrian Morley, Michael Monaghan, Stefan Ratchford, Richie Myler and David Solomona were all declared injured. How injured some of those players really were remains to be seen.
Salford put out a reasonable side with the focus on getting the two points from the Halliwell Jones Stadium, an achievement they succeeded in last season following the Exiles match.
With an eye on Sunday’s Challenge Cup quarter final, Warrington included youngsters Ben Currie, Brad Dwyer and Gareth O’Brien.
Under normal circumstances I would applaud Warrington’s young squad for coming away with the victory, even if Salford managed to score two late tries to set up a nervous finish for the 10,000 supporters in attendance.
But after seeing Tony Smith’s post-match press conference, I have to condemn his attitude towards this stage of the season.
Smith said: “There was some risk involved by putting out a team that wasn’t our strongest possible. If Salford had won, they’d have won.
“There is nothing to worry about. Games sort themselves out. There wasn’t a whole lot that could be done about it.”
Smith appeared oblivious that the game had taken place, and his usual vantage point in the stadium’s bird’s eye box was occupied by first team coach Willie Poaching. Poaching is usually in the technical area barking Smith’s instructions to the players at ground level.
There seems to be a different attitude with Warrington this season. The squad seems to be plodding along without much of a care in the world, and I wonder if that is because Smith knows the season really starts in September.
After seeing Leeds come from fifth place in last season’s play offs to win the Grand Final, the emphasis of finishing first in the league has been lost.
Warrington themselves are victims of that. After finishing top of the tree after 27 rounds last season, Leeds knocked the Wolves out of the play offs on their way to a famous win at Old Trafford.
So long as the Wolves keep churning out regular wins, like the one on Sunday no matter how lacklustre, they know they still have a chance of Grand Final glory.
Smith’s players may not be fatigued by the business end of the season, but with performances like the one on show against Salford, how long will the fans put up with a terrible attitude to the rest of the season from their coach?