Wakefield Wildcats: Richard Agar's squad aim to make the top eight again
The Wildcats were one of the success stories of last season, claiming a place in the play-offs after a remarkable run.
Last Updated: 01/02/13 2:26pm
It's fair to say Wakefield surpassed even the most optimistic of predictions last season, securing eighth place and a spot in the play-offs with a tremendous run towards the end of the campaign.
Richard Agar's men won their last seven fixtures, including a thumping 38-18 win against subsequent champions Leeds and thrilling one point verdicts over St Helens and Hull KR.
It was a far cry from a stuttering start to the season as a host of new faces struggled to bed in and the coach strived to find his best combinations in the crucial positions.
To that end the loan signings of Richie Mathers and Paul Sykes were crucial as they came into the side and played pivotal roles, but it was the re-emergence of Tim Smith as one of the most influential half-backs in the competition that proved the catalyst.
He finished the campaign with the second most try assists in Super League and a reputation, tarnished by several indifferent seasons in Australia, fully restored.
The Wildcats may have come up short in the play-offs at Leeds but they were firmly in a blood-and-thunder contest for 70 minutes, whetting the appetite of players and supporters alike for more of the same in 2013.
Ins and outs
In sharp contrast to last year, the Wildcats go into Super League XVIII with a very settled squad.
Signings were kept to a minimum with Justin Poore, an Australian prop who represented New South Wales in all three games of the 2009 State Of Origin series, the headline capture.
He brings size and aggression to the Wakefield front-row which is also boosted by the loan signing of Brad Singleton from Leeds. The England academy international is held in very high regard at Headingley and has made a good impression in two pre-season friendlies.
The only other arrival was a low-key one but Reece Lyne could prove to be the shrewdest signing of all. He was a shooting star at Hull a few years ago and arrives at the Rapid Solicitor Solutions Stadium with a point to prove.
He's been Wakefield's outstanding player through pre-season, making a series of searing breaks in the heavy defeat at St Helens and is a three-quarter to watch in 2013.
Dave Ord is editor of sportinglife.com having worked on the site for the last 12 years. He's was sole editorial contributor to the Wakefield Trinity matchday programme or seven years from the late 1990s during which time it was voted the worst in Super League in a fans poll. Like the publication, he's bounced back since.
Here are his thoughts on the season ahead...
"Clearly we were spoiled a little last year, in fact it was a shame the season had to end. By the time we arrived at Headingley in the play-offs the side were full of confidence and playing a fantastic attacking brand of rugby. So can we do it again?
There's no reason to think not. The squad has a very settled look. The inclusion of Justin Poore adds an enforcer to a pack that is more than a match for most in the top flight and the permanent deals for Richie Mathers and Paul Sykes were no-brainers after last term.
Sykes' switch to stand-off allowed Tim Smith to blossom and much of the Wildcats hopes for this season revolve around that pair firing again.
However there are one or two worrying pre-season signs on the injury front. Kyle Wood is facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines with an eye injury. With Andy Ellis having departed the club for Featherstone it leaves Wakefield light in the hooker department.
Matty Wildie will be asked to fill a void but with Tim Smith struggling with a leg injury and Paul Aiton still getting back to full fitness, Wakefield could be light in some crucial areas, especially early in the season.
Andy Raleigh and Lee Smith may also miss the start of the campaign, at the time of writing Kyle Amor has yet to feature in a friendly following shoulder surgery, so it's clear Agar hasn't had the smooth passage into the new season he'd have liked.
That said he can go to war with a squad he knows well and at a club firmly on the up. With over 4,000 season tickets sold and positive news expected on the proposed new stadium at Newmarket, there's every reason to believe this can be another good year for the Wakefield Trinity Wildcats."