The Steve Price era has officially come to a close at the Halliwell Jones. Although it started with promise with three major final appearances from a possible three at the start of his reign, he failed to break into the top two and did not end Warrington’s wait for Super League glory.
With Daryl Powell taking over, there’s fresh optimism for Wire fans based on the development and attacking rugby he oversaw at Castleford. With an exciting squad at his disposal, could 2022 finally be Warrington’s year? If it has any potential of being so, Powell is going to have to settle on a strong first choice 17 but with magnificent depth that’s easier said than done. Nonetheless, we’re giving it a go and predicting Powell’s strongest Warrington side.
Fullback: Stefan Ratchford
Rightly awarded a testimonial in 2022, Ratchford has been a trustworthy servant at Warrington for the last decade no matter where he has played. Now settled at fullback, he ticks every box you’d want from a number one and will start the season firmly as the Wolves’ first choice in the role. However, he has the likes of Matty Ashton and Josh Thewlis breathing down his neck. He could also move into the halves should injury occur there.
Wingers: Josh Charnley and Matty Ashton
Speaking of Ashton, he’s been awarded the number five shirt going into 2022. A natural fullback, he has played on the wing in the past and his speed has made him quite the threat in that role. A hat-trick scorer against Powell in his final game with Castleford, he could be ready to kick on under the former Tigers’ boss. Going from a newcomer to a man who has been one of Super League’s top wingers for a decade, Josh Charnley will provide experience and finishing prowess on the right wing. Both he and Ashton will have to perform well throughout the year to keep their spots with Thewlis an option as well as new recruit Greg Minikin.
Centres: Peter Mata’utia and Toby King
Minikin, along with young centre Connor Wrench, could also be pushing a place at centre, but they’ll be hard pressed to force Peter Mata’utia and Toby King out of their spots. King has been one of the league’s best centres for a number of years and is at times unstoppable near the tryline. As for Mata’utia, he’s one of two Tigers Powell brought with him and you can see why based on his performance in last year’s Challenge Cup final especially in the first half.
Halfbacks: Gareth Widdop and George Williams
Perhaps the best halfback combination on paper in the league, Gareth Widdop and George Williams have experience at the highest level and have won big games both for Warrington and other clubs during their careers. Having settled alongside each other last year and under the man who developed the likes of Luke Gale and Jake Trueman into quality halfbacks, these two could be a formidable duo in 2022. If they are, we could very well see the Wolves at Old Trafford in 2022.
Props: Joe Philbin and Mike Cooper
Chris Hill undoubtedly leaves big shoes to fill and although Warrington have signed two props ahead of next season, it seems Joe Philbin will be the man tasked with replacing Hill having been given the number 8 shirt. At home at 13 in the past, it’ll be interesting to see how he adjusts to being a fulltime front row. However, he’ll be joined by one of Super League’s best and underappreciated props in Mike Cooper. Last year his value was shown in the way the Wolves struggled in his absence.
Hooker: Daryl Clark
The 2014 Man of Steel enjoyed his best rugby under Daryl Powell and now reunited with him at Warrington, Clark could again catch the eye in 2022. The England international is the complete hooker and is capable of tearing defences apart off the back of a quick ruck.
Second-Rows: Ben Currie and Oliver Holmes
Powell has made the bold move of taking the number 12 shirt off skipper Jack Hughes and awarding it to new signing Oliver Holmes. Always a consistent player under Powell at Castleford, he clearly has the coach’s respect and he should do based on the performances he churned out at the Jungle. His arrival completes a formidable back three with Ben Currie alongside him. An attacking threat always, Currie is at times simply unstoppable and we could very well see that again in 2022.
Loose-Forward: Jack Hughes
Completing this impressive back three of the scrum is Jack Hughes. Set to change position in 2022 taking on the number 13 shirt, his tenacity and work rate will serve the Wolves well down the middle of the field. Playing centrally may also help him become an even more effective skipper. I expect a big year from the former Wigan man in 2022.
Substitutes: Jason Clark, Joe Bullock, Danny Walker, Billy Magoulias
In the shape of Joe Bullock and Billy Magoulias, Warrington have drafted in two very capable forwards who will keep the middle of the field strong when coming off the bench. Jason Clark will also be key in that area especially due to his work rate down the middle as well as his experience and skillset. The likes of Matty Davis, Rob Mulhern and James Harrison will also be eying up a place in the side and speak to Warrington’s depth. However, the bench could very well be completed by livewire hooker Danny Walker. A threat out of dummyhalf, he and Daryl Clark could dovetail nicely in 2022.