Warrington Wolves have been one of the mainstays in the Super League since its inception back in 1996. Despite this, they remain the only side to have played in every season, and not won it.
They made the cut to be named in the inaugural Super League season. They were given the opportunity to enter into a merger with Widnes and become Cheshire. Although, this never materialised.
The Wolves went into the first season led by John Dorahy, and went on to finish fifth. Following a 66-12 defeat on the final day against would-be champions St Helens, they just missed out on a place in the top four, and a place in the Premiership trophy.
Dorahy was sacked just four games into the 1997 season, after four straight defeats. Paul Cullen took charge for their 35-24 win over Wigan, and then Darryl van der Velde took permanent charge. He had previously been in charge of Castleford and Huddersfield.
Warrington ended up finishing ninth that year, and went out of the expanded Premiership Trophy in the first round after a 26-16 defeat at Sheffield Eagles.
1998 was a huge disappointment for Warrington, as they finished 10th and well short of Bradford in the final playoff spot.
A year later saw progress being made, as they climbed up to seventh in the expanded Super League. However, they were still 10 points off Castleford Tigers in the final playoff position.
Warrington entered the new Millennium and made progress again, as they finished sixth in the Super League, although they were still eight points short of Castleford in the playoffs. However, they did make the Challenge Cup semi-finals, but they were beaten 44-20 by Bradford at Headingley.
The success in 2000 was partly thanks to a brilliant cameo from retired Australia captain Allan Langer. He was convinced to come out of retirement, and came to captain the side. He then left in 2001 to join Brisbane Broncos.
Van der Velde then left the club ahead of the 2001 season, and was replaced by former Queensland and Melbourne Storm Coach Steve Anderson.
Anderson managed to repeat the previous year’s Challenge Cup achievement, but once again lost against Bradford Bulls 39-22 in Huddersfield. Their league position was relatively steady too, with the Wolves finishing seventh, nine points off Leeds Rhinos.
However, in 2002, Anderson was sacked after a start of one win from their first six games. A 32-20 defeat at Wakefield was the last straw. He was replaced by David Plange, who only lasted 16 games himself before being given the push. A 24-12 home defeat against Castleford left the club in 10th place. Paul Cullen was then given the job permanently.
Warrington then achieved their first playoff berth in 2003, as they finished sixth. They made the playoffs at the expense of Hull FC, who were deducted two points for a salary cap breach which proved costly. However, they were beaten 25-12 by Wigan Warriors at the JJB Stadium.
2004 saw the Wolves move to their new home at the Haliwell Jones Stadium, just a short walk from Warrington Central and Bank Quay Train Stations.
On the pitch, it was a bit disappointing in the league for Warrington, as they went out of the playoffs and were nine points behind Wakefield in the final spot. They did reach another Challenge Cup semi-final, but were beaten by Wigan in Widnes.
Warrington managed to put the previous year’s disappointment behind them, when they achieved their best Super League finish of fourth in 2005. However, once again they lost at the first hurdle, after losing 40-6 against Hull FC at home. This was despite the late signing of Andrew Johns, who was brought in after the conclusion of the NRL season
A year later, they managed to retain that playoff berth, by finishing sixth. It was the first time in the Super League era that they had secured playoff rugby in back-to-back seasons.
However, this was one was different, as they claimed their first ever win in the playoffs, with an 18-17 win over Leeds Rhinos at Headingley. Tries from Henry Fa’afili, Michael Sullivan and Ben Westwood, as well as two drop goals from Lee Briers claimed victory for them. Although they did lose their next match 40-24 against Bradford.
2007 was somewhat of a disappointment, as they fell out of the playoffs. They missed out by a single point to Huddersfield Giants.
End of an era
Cullen resigned halfway through the 2008 season, with Warrington in a poor run of form. Former Bradford captain James Lowes was given the responsibility.
Lowes was able to guide Warrington to the playoffs, but they were beaten 46-8 in the south of France against Catalans Dragons.
However, he was sacked early into the next season, as he was punished for a slow start which saw Warrington bottom after three rounds. He was replaced by former Leeds and Huddersfield Head Coach Tony Smith.
The Smith years
Whilst the league campaign may have been a disappointment, it wasn’t all bad for Warrington as they claimed their first silverware of the Super League era.
They won the Challenge Cup after a 25-16 win over Huddersfield Giants at Wembley. Tries from Vinnie Anderson, Chris Hicks, Richard Mathers and Michael Monaghan as well as a drop-goal from Briers, earned victory for the Wolves.
2010 was expected to be a big year for Warrington, and it delivered. They finished third, and were just four points off league leaders Wigan. However, they lost twice in the playoffs. First against St Helens, and then Huddersfield.
Warrington were also able to defend their Challenge Cup after a big 30-6 win over Leeds Rhinos at Wembley. A hat-trick from Chris Hicks, two tries from Ryan Atkins and another from Louis Anderson sealed the win for the Wire.
The growth continued into 2011, where Warrington finished top of the league for the first time in the Super League era. They finished a point clear of Wigan. Although they became only the second side to finish top and fail to reach Old Trafford, when they suffered a 26-24 defeat at home to Leeds.
In 2012, Warrington almost claimed the double. It started when they won their third Challenge Cup under Tony Smith, when they beat Leeds 35-18 at Wembley.
Tries from Ryan Atkins, Brett Hodgson, Joel Monaghan, Tyrone McCarthy, Chris Riley and Trent Waterhouse, as well as a drop-goal from Briers sealed the win for Warrington.
The two would meet again at Old Trafford, after Wire reached the Grand Final for the first time. They did it after beating St Helens 36-18 in the semi-final. Two tries each for Chris Riley and Trent Waterhouse, as well as other efforts from Simon Grix and Joel Monaghan won it.
However, Leeds got their revenge for the Challenge Cup Final, as they won 26-18.
2013 was almost identical. They finished a point behind Huddersfield Giants in the race for the League Leaders Shield, and made it to Old Trafford again.
This time, they faced Wigan at Old Trafford. Tries from Simon Grix, Joel Monaghan and Ben Westwood had Warrington 16-6 up at half-time, but they lost 30-16.
A year later, they lost in both competitions in the semi-final stage. They lost in the Challenge Cup against Leeds and then the Super League against Wigan.
2015 saw a new challenge for the Wire under Smith. They had to pull themselves together late on in order to stay in the top eight.
However, they did reach the Challenge Cup semi-finals, but they suffered a surprise defeat against Hull KR in Leeds.
12 months later, Warrington were back on top, as they claimed the League Leaders Shield after a 23-6 win in a straight shootout with Hull FC. Two tries from Tom Lineham, and another from Kevin Penny and a drop goal from Dec Patton won the game for them. They enacted their revenge after Hull beat them 12-10 at Wembley in the Challenge Cup.
They reached Old Trafford again, but were beaten by Wigan 12-6.
Warrington were then presented with a new challenge in 2017, as they finished below the top eight, meaning they had to battle for their lives.
However, there wasn’t any issues for them as they won all seven of their games.
That season also marked the end of an era, as Smith left the club after several successful years at the club. Australian Steve Price came in to replace him.
That change brought Warrington up the table, and they got themselves fourth in the table. They faced runaway league leaders St Helens at the Totally Wicked Stadium, and won 18-13. Two tries from Lineham and another from Jack Hughes won the game.
They faced Wigan for the third time at Old Trafford, and lost 12-4.
Warrington also reached Wembley, but they were beaten 20-14 by Catalans Dragons.
A year later, they avenged their defeat at Wembley, by beating St Helens 18-4. Tries from Jason Clark, Ben Murdoch-Masila and Joe Philbin sealed victory for Warrington.
However, in the league, they faded away after looking like they would be Saints’ closest challengers. They finished fourth and went out of the playoffs after a 14-12 defeat against Castleford.
The Wolves certainly have the squad to challenge at the top, it all depends now on how they replace Murdoch-Masila.
The Tongan forward is off to New Zealand Warriors in 2021, and his presence will definitely be missed in Warrington’s forward line.
There is a feeling that Warrington could well win a title soon.
7/10- they have certainly done well, to go from the outskirts of the playoffs to regular participants. It has looked like they could win it, but just fell short. However, the more experienced with these games they get, the more likely they are to overcome one some day.