Warrington Wolves head into 2019 looking to overcome Grand Final and Challenge Cup agony
By Fraser Dainton, Sky Sports News
Last Updated: 21/01/19 5:49pm
It is the million dollar question - when you get to two major rugby league finals in the same season, but come away empty handed, what more does it take to become a winner?
That's the challenge facing Warrington Wolves as the start of the new Super League season approaches.
In terms of recruitment, they certainly seem to be going in the right direction - six new players have come in, with former Canberra Raiders half-back Blake Austin arguably one of the most exciting signings across the whole competition.
The 27-year-old playmaker is already one of the bookie's favourites to be named this year's Steve Prescott Man of Steel.
Super League's style of play should suite him perfectly and, speaking to Sky Sports News, he said: "I knew pretty early on I needed a change in my football, and what bigger change is there than to come over here and test myself?
"Warrington is a real professional, quality club. I'm a footy nerd so any time it was on at home I would watch it. I've had the one pre-season game already and the one thing I've noticed is there's not as much wrestle around the ruck, which makes for a more open game. I'm looking forward to it.
"Warrington had a slightly slow start last year but found their groove a little way in. We want to start quicker this year, and we've worked hard to do that. I'm hoping to bring what I do well, that's my attack and a bit of spark. If we can do as well as we did last year, it's anyone's to win."
Head coach Steve Price had a grin on his face, every time Austin was mentioned.
"From day one he's been first class, embracing the country and the town," Price said. "He's a first-class athlete, and displaying lots of positive signs. It should suit him here, he likes free-flowing football, I think he's only going to get better the more games he plays and as we build combinations."
In addition, the pack has been beefed up with the arrivals of NRL Grand Final winner Jason Clark from South Sydney, Lama Tasi from Salford and Matthew Davies from London Broncos. Elsewhere, Jake Mamo showed he's a constant threat to the try line with Huddersfield last year, and hooker Danny Walker was an outstanding young performer for Widnes.
Warrington have also decided to make sure captain Chris Hill isn't shouldering the responsibilities of leadership single-handedly by appointing Jack Hughes as co-captain.
Hughes said: "It's a massive honour, and a real privilege, but Chris is still the big boss, I'm there to support him and help drive our standards. If you can nail the 'one percenters', that can make a difference. We're doing everything we can to improve."
Price, who now has 12 months' Super League experience under his belt, added: "We're a lot more advanced, people are understanding systems and structures a lot better, but we've got to improve. We're challenging each other all the time in pre-season, and I'd like to think we're only going to get better."
So, back to the big question - will all this be enough to take the Wolves from challengers to champions? Price refused to make predictions. "What we did last year doesn't really count for anything. We all have to improve. I'm really positive about all the things we've been doing here, but we won't be getting ahead of ourselves."
Sky Sports viewers will get an early indication of just how good Warrington are when they take on Leeds Rhinos in their opening game of the season, live on Sky Sports Arena and Sky Sports Mix on Saturday February 2, kick off 5.30pm.