Yes, you read that correctly.
Wakefield Trinity boss Willie Poching deserves to be named as Super League Coach of the Year…why?
In his first season as a Super League head coach, Poching endured a tough baptism of fire in the opening stages of the season, falling to defeat in Toulouse which petrified a number of Wakefield fans.
Was there time in Super League set to be ended at the hands of the newly-promoted French side? It certainly looked possible, that is until an incredible run not only lifted them off the bottom of the table, but took them past Warrington Wolves.
Five wins from six games towards the back end of the season rejuvenated the West Yorkshire club and gave Poching and his men a remarkable spring in their step that all began at the Jungle.
There, they swept aside a Castleford Tigers side hunting a play-off spot with ease, running out 32-6 winners and claiming the Adam Watene trophy.
Wakefield, however, were not done there, losing narrowly to reigning champions St Helens and Catalans Dragons before inflicting a stunning defeat on second-placed Wigan Warriors.
Another win – this time away at Hull FC – galvanised Trinity and two more wins over Hull KR and Saints confirmed their Super League status.
And, even though they were safe, Wakefield pushed the Huddersfield Giants all the way at the John Smith’s Stadium, only going down by a golden point penalty goal from Will Pryce.
The way in which Poching revitalised a team with the same players that looked nervous and devoid of ideas earlier in the season cannot go unnoticed. It truly was a great escape.
Now, Poching has his work cut out to keep Trinity safe from relegation in 2023 particularly with a number of stalwarts leaving the club in David Fifita, Jacob Miller, Tinirau Arona and James Batchelor to name just a few.
Those four were Trinity through and through and replacing them will be a difficult task as it’s not just the player that will need trumping but also the culture the quartet built at Belle Vue.
2023 will arguably be even more difficult for Poching than 2022, but this season has certainly been a massive learning curve and one which he and the club will be all the more stronger for.
No signings have been made for 2023 just yet, but Poching was eager to reveal that things would speed up following the end of the season.
“Recruitment is going to be important and getting these guys that are staying around to grow again and grow our culture and what we need,” Poching said after his side’s last game against Huddersfield Giants.
“Quality people and quality players and that’s what we’re interested in. He (Jamie Shaul) showed tonight some experience and there was a time when they made the break and he just knew how to defend that try in the corner.
“It would be nice to get it sooner (rather than later) but we are in no rush to get people in. We need to do our due diligence to bring people in.”
Being in such a difficult place throughout the Super League season has meant that Poching has been unable to do his recruitment as he would have liked which will of course put the former Leeds Rhinos forward in perhaps a more precarious position going forward.
However, if there was one thing you could sum up about Wakefield in 2022 it is that they are dogged and Poching has got the respect of his players – something which has been so evident in the way in which the club were able to turn things around in spectacular fashion.
No other coach managed to do that in 2022 who was there from the very start. Of course, Rohan Smith has overseen a major turnaround at Leeds, but Poching somehow managed to inspire the same players that looked void of ideas at the start of the year.