Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Saturday's Coming: Warrington Wolves

Sun's out, guns out: Warrington players flogging it in
Tenerife this week. Photo: Kurt Gidley's Instagram

Hornets Welcome DR partners Warrington Wolves to our temporary home at Manchester Regional Arena for Saturday’s final pre-season hit out.

But while Hornets have been slugging it out in a freezing barn in Padgate or on the all-weather at Hopwood Hall, their opponents have been preparing for their year (is every year not ‘Warrington’s Year’?) at the T3 complex in sunny Tenerife.

Part of their warm-weather programme was a ’light-contact session' with relegated Hull KR - who somehow also found the time, reource and budget to swan off to the Canaries to use a gym in Costa Adeje. Wolves coach Tony Smith has sympathy for Hull KR. Speaking to the Hul Daily Wail this week he said: "It was sad to see KR relegated, it was for all the wrong reasons.” Those reasons being that they lost too many games, Tony.

As Warrington return on Thursday evening to the cold of a Manchester January, we do know who WON’T be playing at the weekend.

Ben Currie remains in rehab after knee surgery; Chris Hill is six weeks into recovery on two-for the price of one surgery on his shoulder and a hernia; Stefan Ratchford continues to recover from a knee injury and Kevin Penny had an operation last week on a pseudoaneurysm of his anterior tibial artery. In old money - an ankle injury.

On the plus side, Declan Patton, Brad Dwyer, Ben Westwood and Matty Blythe all returned to full contact training this week.

Punchy: Chris Sandow gives Wire
the flick to pursue fighting career.
One player who won’t be returning to any sort of training any time soon is League’s perpetual ‘enfant terrible’ Chris Sandow, who walked out on the Wolves to pursue a new career of ‘fighting people in the street’ back in Cherbourg (Pop. 1,300), near Brisbane.

Tony Smith was prety frank in his assessment of Sandow’s exit: “In terms of off-field, there will be a few less grey hairs around the place, that’s for sure,” he told TotalRL back in November. “He was OK for most of it, and at sometimes he was a pain in the proverbial…”

“We knew there was risk involved when we recruited him in the first place. On his day he’s capable of doing some really special things, as we saw in the first couple of months of the year.

He went on: “To leave it to the last minute before pre-season training started is pretty ordinary. Surprised? No. Disappointed? No. I’m ready to move on and recruit where we can…. we think we can get improvement in an all-round player who could be a bit steadier in some ways on and off the field. I’m not just being cool and calm here, I’m just genuinely not that disappointed.”

Within a month, Smith had signed Kev Brown from Widnes. Talking to the Warrington Guardian, Brown said: “It would have been easy to stay there and stay in my comfort zone but this feels like somewhere I can really challenge myself to be better. The yardage Warrington gain with their plays is just frightening, all of which helps me and the other half-backs do our jobs.”

And Brown is exctited: “There’s a great forward pack here and the back-rowers and outside backs are all international class. Playing within this set-up really excites me.” Exciting, then.

In other squad news, Warrington announced last week that hooker Daryl Clark has agreed an  deal with the club until November 2020.  Given the DR relationship, the Wire squad features several players who have out in a stint with Hornets, including Tom Lineham, Joe Philbin, Ben Jullien and Sam Wilde, which adds an interesting twist.

Ultimately, our favourite bit of Warrington trivia is this: Warrington is one of the original twenty-two clubs that formed the Northern Rugby Football Union in 1895 and the only one that has played every season since in the top flight. #Geeky

With the 2017 season just over a week away, Alan Kilshaw will be edging ever closer to the 17 he sees as being his killer opening gambit, against Dewsbury. Last week’s convincing win over Oldham indicates that we’re at least ahead of the Roughyeds in our season prep and you can’t dismiss the confidence boost that a Law Cup win provides.

Finally, the game gives us anoraks a chance to tick off a new ground. Manchester Regional Arena (Rowsley Street, Manchester, M11 3FF for your SatNavs) was developed as the warm up track for the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games - and has a capacity of 6500.

If you’re travelling by public transport, you can pick-up the 216 bus from Piccadilly Gardens.

But the quickest way to travel to Regional Arena from Manchester city centre is via Metrolink to ‘Etihad Campus’. The station is on the East Manchester line running from Bury to Ashton-Under-Lyne via Manchester City Centre. Passengers can connect from Rochdale at Victoria.