Warrington Wolves – #ANewEra or Another False Dawn?

Look back to the 2017 season and you’d believe that the time had finally come for Warrington to lift the biggest prize of all – the Grand Final Trophy. In 2016 they won the League Leaders’ Shield and got to both the Challenge Cup and the Grand Final. Not a bad year then, but still that one important step short.

When 2017 came around, Warrington were all set for it to be “their year” – but they said the same in 2016, 2015 and indeed every year for some time. We all know what happened in 2017, it was a complete disaster. Now, the question is what to expect for the forthcoming 2018 season?

The Wolves press office are pushing the #ANewEra, as the team embark on yet another campaign that (yet again) promises a lot. Tony Smith and perhaps more importantly his often lamented assistant Richard Agar are gone. So what are the chances that the Wolves can finally take that extra step from perennial contenders, to champions? Can the enduring pain of the Wire fan base finally be eased, or is 2018 a year of consolidation and rebuilding?

Sport these days is a very demanding business, and no doubt results driven. But surely it is a lot to ask a new coach to win Super League in their first season. There’s another dilemma for Steve Price too. He has to factor in that the Wire faithful have come to expect and enjoy their free flowing rugby style, as much as endure their annual fall from grace. So how will the new coach set up his team, hopefully by stemming the flow of conceded tries and putting more fluidity into the Wire attack. What’s certain is that there is already a change in tone, with reports of (senior) players being sent home for getting to their first practise session late – not a great way to impress the new boss, but a great way for him to make his mark.

Widnes Vikings 10-19 Warrington Wolves
Warrington endured a nightmare 2017 campaign as they finished 9th in Super League.

You cannot ignore the fact though that 2017 was a real shocker. Okay so it wasn’t quite “first to worst”, but it was not far off. Nobody at the start of the ‘17 season predicted the middle-eights for the team that had beaten the Brisbane Broncos in the World Club game. So what went wrong? Poor performances, a lack of cohesion, a loss of direction, bad injuries to the likes of Currie, who was truly missed. Yes to all these. A year earlier Leeds had a similar fall from grace, and finished that season at the top of the middle-eights, undefeated. In 2017, they lifted the sport’s biggest prize, sounds familiar?

As the new season approaches how apt that the Wolves look set to emulate and repeat that journey with a home starter against the champion Rhinos. The Halliwell Jones Stadium will likely be buzzing with expectation, hope and perhaps even excitement, in view of the off-season signings and player performances at the World Cup. Brown seems to have found good form, Hill a new impetus going forward, and Currie is once again fit. Certainly there have been a large number leave the Wolves, but there has been quality coming in too. The question is are we looking at a new dawn, a new era, or just another false hope ending in a repeat of the last few seasons? Pre-season friendlies are perhaps not the best measure, but the first half against Widnes on 29th December was a little worrying.

Whatever the outcome, there is no doubt the Wire fans will already be predicting that 2018 is their year – much to the hilarity of the jeering opposition supporters who love to revel in their disappointment and taunt their unreserved optimism. The Wolves will however be looking to have the last laugh themselves.

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