Super League play-offs: Chris Hill and Warrington Wolves adapt to new normal
The Super League play-offs begin on Thursday night as Warrington Wolves host Hull FC at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in the opening first-round match; watch live on Sky Sports Arena from 7.30pm
By Marc Bazeley
Last Updated: 10/11/20 4:58pm
In this strangest of strange seasons, where fixtures have been subject to late changes or even cancellation and the entire format of Super League has been rejigged more than once, it has sometimes been difficult to keep track.
For Chris Hill and his Warrington Wolves team-mates though, it has just been another of the hurdles they have had to overcome in this pandemic-affected year, along with adapting to the various anti-Covid protocols and the weekly testing regimen.
The Wolves were one of the teams whose plans recently had to be redrawn at the last minute and, along with Thursday's opponents Hull FC, they will go into the play-offs having not played for nearly two weeks.
Even what turned out to be their last match of the regular season - a 19-12 win over Huddersfield Giants, before the play-offs were expanded to cover the top six - featured a late change after original opponents Salford Red Devils forfeited their game. However, Warrington co-captain Hill has taken it all in his stride.
"It seems like a while since we played Huddersfield, but that's the way the season has run," Hill said. "You can play two in four days or one in a month, that's just the way it is, but we've adapted accordingly.
"We're really good at our club. We just adapt and prepare for the next game, and if that gets cancelled, we adapt and go again.
"All of the protocols and everything become normal, and it'll be strange when we hopefully go back to some kind of normal - there will be no getting that little thing stuck up your nose and shoved down your throat every week.
All of the protocols and everything become normal and it'll be strange when we hopefully go back to some kind of normal - there will be no getting that little thing stuck up your nose and shoved down your throat every week.
"I think it's shown rugby league in a really good light this year, the way we've managed to get through it and hopefully it'll be able to come out the other side a lot stronger."
It has not all been plain sailing in 2020 for Hill on a personal level either, with last week bringing the news he had been stood down from Shaun Wane's England squad after being part of the national team set-up since 2012 and touring with Great Britain last year.
Having spoken with England head coach Wane, the prop is confident of proving his worth in time for next year's home Rugby League World Cup and believes this year's international calendar being curtailed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic could work in his favour.
"I spoke with Shaun and it's been a tough year, I understand that," Hill said. "But it's the end of next year, the World Cup, so it's a long time off.
"I said to Shaun about getting a pre-season under my belt this year and I've not had one since 2011, which makes a massive plus for me to get a full pre-season under my belt. This year, I think I had two weeks.
"I'll back myself to get in any squad. I'm getting a little bit older now, so I need that pre-season in me, but I had a good chat with Shaun and we both know where we're at."
Playing a leading role in the Wolves finally lifting the Super League title for the first time in their history, having been on the losing team with the club in the Grand Final on four occasions, would be one way to show to Wane he should still be under consideration.
First though, third-placed Warrington must overcome Hull FC - a team they have beaten twice during the regular season - in the first round of the play-offs in Thursday's match at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, live on Sky Sports.
The sixth-placed Black and Whites were one of the beneficiaries of the decision to expand the play-offs, but Hill has no complaints about the late changes to the post-season and is just pleased to see everything mapped out for the road to the Grand Final on November 27.
"We've just concentrated on ourselves, but it's good to get a pathway in front of you," Hill said. "We said from the outset we want to be in big games and these big games start this week, but we're not looking past Thursday.
"They're probably coming into a little bit of form as well and they've got into the six, so they'll fancy themselves. If we give our best version of ourselves, we'll be pretty confident."