Rating each side’s Super League experience: Wakefield Trinity

Wakefield Trinity have certainly shown their resilience over the years to preserve their Super League status.

Like many other clubs, Wakefield had the opportunity to enter a merger. It would be with Featherstone Rovers and Castleford Tigers to form Calder.

Trinity had voted in favour of it, but Castleford and Featherstone voted against it. Wakefield missed the cut to be involved in the inaugural Super League season, and it took them three years to get there.

They got there after a controversial win over Featherstone in the Division One Grand Final in 1998. Wakefield also adopted the ‘Wildcats’ name ahead of their entry to the Super League.

Entry into Super League

Wakefield managed to easily secure their safety in 1999, finishing 11th out of 14. This included a win over would-be champions St Helens in Barnsley. Lynton Scott’s drop goal separated the two sides.

Trinity were comfortable once again in 2000, as they finished eight points clear of relegation. However, coach Andy Kelly left the club following the conclusion of the season. He was replaced by John Harbin ahead of the 2001 season.

That season proved to be closer for comfort than they would have wanted. Their safety was not secured until the final day of the season.

Neil Law scored two tries, and there was others for Gareth Ellis, David March and Willie Poching, which secured the win in what was a bad-tempered match against Salford at The Willows. Justin Brooker was sent off for Trinity, while Bobbie Goulding, Graham Holroyd and Stuart Littler were all dismissed for Salford.

Wakefield edged towards a new direction that year, as Peter Roe took over at Belle Vue. But he only lasted half the season, as he was punished for a slow start.

He was replaced by Shane McNally. The change didn’t prompt a change on the pitch, as they needed more final day heroics to secure their Super League status.

They beat Warrington Wolves 50-10 at home. Brad Davis and Adrian Vowles each scored hat-tricks, and there was other efforts from Chris Feather, Jamie Field, Andrew Frew and Kris Tassell  secured Super League rugby for another year at Wakefield.

Whilst they finished second bottom again, Wakefield were still 15 points clear of Halifax, who were relegated in 2003 with zero points.

First playoff berth

Gareth Ellis came through Wakefield’s academy, and helped them to the playoffs in 2004. Credit: News Images

However, that would all change in 2004, as they secured playoff rugby for the first time in the Super League era. They finished sixth, six points clear of Huddersfield, who were just outside the playoff positions.

They won their first match 28-18 at Hull FC. Tries from March, Feather, Jason Demetriou, Colum Halpenny and Semi Tadulala secured the win for Wakefield.

However, they came unstuck at Wigan Warriors. Halpenny scored a try, as well as Duncan MacGillvray and David Solomona for Wakefield. Wigan responded with tries from Kevin Brown, Adrian Lam and Kris Radlinski. The difference was goals. Andy Farrell landed all three of his conversions, whereas March only scored one.

In 2005, it was a bit more of a struggle for them. They finished eight points behind London Broncos in the final playoff spot, but seven points ahead of Widnes in the final relegation spot. Two sides were relegated that year to open up space for Catalans Dragons.

McNally was also sacked halfway through that season, and former Castleford and Wigan halfback Tony Smith took the reins. They ended up finishing 10th.

Battle of Belle Vue and Rebuild

2006 proved to be another close shave for Wakefield. With Catalans exempt from relegation, it meant the second bottom was going to be relegated. The final day saw Trinity take on Castleford at Belle Vue, in a game which has since been dubbed ‘the battle of Belle Vue’.

Two tries from James Evans, and others from Demetriou, Monty Bentham and Kevin Henderson secured a 29-17 win for Wakefield in front of 11,000 fans. The resulting win kept Wakefield up at Castleford’s expense.

That didn’t stop Trinity from making another change, as John Kear came to the club from Hull FC ahead of the 2007 season.

Kear was able to lead Wakefield into eighth place, just four points off the playoff places. Following a win over Harlequins, they were in the playoffs, but lost their last four games of the season to surrender that place.

Wakefield finished eighth again in 2008, but were further off the playoffs, as they finished six points behind Warrington. Once again, they gave up a playoff position after entering a poor run of form. They were fourth, with nine rounds to go. However, they would only win one more match.

They did make the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup as well, but were beaten by Kear’s former club Hull FC in Doncaster.

In 2009, the playoffs were extended to eight teams, and they would go on to make their second appearance in the playoffs as they finished fifth. just three points off the top four.

They lost 25-16 against Catalans Dragons in the Elimination Playoff.

Struggles

Danny Brough left Wakefield in 2010, before returning in 2019. Credit: News Images

But in 2010, they slumped down to 11th. Trinity had lost players like Danny Brough, Shane Tronc, and tragically, Terry Newton during the course of the season. They had been hovering around the playoffs, but six straight defeats to end the season put pay to any chance they had.

2011 proved troublesome both on and off the pitch. They finished 13th, and also had to enter administration in order to avoid a winding-up order from HMRC.

Fast-forward 12 months, and Wakefield secured a third playoff berth. Richard Agar had taken over from Kear, and led Trinity to eighth. They finished three points ahead of Bradford Bulls, who had gone into administration that season.

However, they lost 42-20 against Leeds Rhinos at Headingley in the Elimination Final.

A year later, they finished 11th, five points off the playoffs. Agar left the club halfway through the season, and was replaced by former Hull KR halfback James Webster.

2015 was a tough year for Wakefield. They finished bottom of the Super League for the first time since they came up, and went into the Middle 8s.

Webster was sacked part way through the season, and replaced by former Bradford coach Brian Smith. They went into the Million Pound Game against Bradford.

Tries from Danny Kirmond, Scott Moore, Anthony Mullally and Danny Washbrook ensured Wakefield won yet another relegation decider.

Smith only lasted five games into the new season, before Chris Chester took over. They managed to finish eighth and qualify for the Super 8s. It was at the expense of Salford, who were given a six-point deduction for a salary cap breach.

New beginnings

Chris Chester took over as Wakefield Head Coach in 2016. Credit: Craig Milner/News Images

In 2017, they managed to build further from that by finishing fifth. They didn’t qualify for the top four, but did end their Super 8s campaign with a 32-0 win over Wigan. Tries from Scott Grix, Ben Jones-Bishop, Jacob Miller and Sam Williams secured victory.

Once again, Wakefield made the top eight in 2018, finishing three points ahead of Leeds.

However, 2019 proved to be a struggle. They needed another final day escape act on the final day of the season to secure their safety.

Two tries from Ryan Hampshire, and another from Reece Lyne secured a 19-10 victory over London Broncos, and sent the capital club back to the Championship.

The future

Both last year and into this year, Wakefield have struggled with injuries, which led to their struggles last season.

If they can get those players back and performing, they could do well again. With the likes of Tom Johnstone and David Fifita, and combined with younger players they have coming through like Lee Kershaw, Connor Bailey and Jack Croft.

Rating

6/10- they have done well in the Super League, and have certainly gone through their highs and lows. They have avoided relegation on the final day three times, and that doesn’t include their Million Pound Game win over Bradford. If they can get their injuries and what not sorted, then there is no reason why they cannot start to aim higher.

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