Will 2016 be the year of the Wolf?

For quite a few years now, most of the pre-season jibes from fans have gone towards Warrington and the ‘it’s our year’ tag.

In the Wolves’ latest video to hype up the new season, that line made an appearance and opposition fans were quick off the mark with their comments.

However, can 2016 finally be the year Warrington get the monkey off their backs and win the Super League Grand Final, a trophy that’s evaded them season after season?

If we look at the recruitment by coach Tony Smith, it is a good list of players that have linked up with the side. Eight players in all have signed for Warrington and two of those are Tom Lineham and Jack Hughes, who were both impressive for Hull FC and Huddersfield respectively last year.

Lineham replaces Joel Monaghan, who has joined Castleford Tigers. The purchase of Lineham will prove to be a shrewd move if he replicates his constant try-scoring habits in Smith’s side.

Meanwhile, Warrington have got themselves a very handy back-row in the shape of Ben Westwood, Ben Currie and new signing Hughes. Also the acquisition of Hull FC forward Joe Westerman is an interesting one.

The former Castleford man was tipped to be a star as he progressed through the ranks as a youngster in West Yorkshire. He’ll be hoping to finally meet those expectations in his time at Warrington.

The experience in creativity of former State of Origin player and Kangaroos utility Kurt Gidley will prove to be massive for Warrington’s chances. Ryan Bailey knows all about winning the big games following his time as part of the successful Leeds Rhinos side. He’ll be hoping to get back to those playing standards after a disappointing and abrupt season at both Castleford and Hull KR.

Players including Chris Bridge, Gareth O’Brien, Richie Myler and the aforementioned Monaghan have left for fellow Super League clubs, but optimism will still be high in the Wolves camp for the season ahead.

Daryl Clark will be wanting to rekindle the form he showed for Castleford in 2014 when he was named Man of Steel.

Chris Sandow had a slow start in Super League but as he readies himself for his first full season, the former Parramatta halfback will know that his skills can take Warrington to the very top.

The steel in the pack from Chris Hill and Ashton Sims will be pivotal. Hill has been announced as Warrington’s captain for this season and it’s deserved recognition for one of the most consistent top tier prop forwards in recent years.

I’d say the Wolves are in a good position for the upcoming season, there’s a lot of young talent in the squad who will be constantly knocking on coach Smith’s door and pressuring the first team to perform to the best of their ability.

Warrington recorded their second pre-season win in as many matches on Sunday when they beat Championship top guns Leigh Centurions 46-4. Their other win came in the annual festive fixture against Widnes Vikings. The Wolves triumphed 40-0.

Nobody should look too deep into pre-season fixtures but the early signs say that Warrington, as a squad, have gelled and look ready for the season to start in four day’s time.

Their first game couldn’t be more of a test, in all honesty. Tony Smith’s men travel to Headingley Carnegie for a clash with current Super League, League Leaders Shield and Challenge Cup holders Leeds Rhinos. Both sides will be wanting to start the regular season on a good note and the Wolves will be going there to upset the party and make a statement.

As the year goes on, it’ll be interesting to track Warrington’s progression and how they’re shaping up for the business end of the season – the Super 8s. Will the grandest prize of all finally make its way to the Halliwell Jones Stadium?

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