Thursday, 24 January 2019

Saturday's Coming: Warrington Wolves

The Immortal Joey Johns: 'No, mate - YOU
are the biggest signing in Warrington's history
As we all know, every year is Warrington's year - and this year is no different. In a close-season that has generated a tsunami of headlines, the Wire seem to have won the hype-war in announcing their signing (for 2020) of Illawarra St George five eighth and England fulcrum Gareth Widdop.

Now we've been to both Wollongong and Warrington and we're pretty sure where we'd rather spend our days (You definitely can't hear the sound of surf from the Halliwell Jones) , but Widdop sees the Wire as a club at which he can 'win things' and says that Simon Moran, Karl Fitzpatrick and Steve Price have given him an "... opportunity to come home and live out a childhood dream..."

Warrington chief executive Karl Fitzpatrick understands the power of an understatement: "This is arguably the biggest signing in the club's history and quite possibly in the history of Super League," he said (forgetting that both Andrew Johns and Alfie Langer have preceded Widdop in the primrose and Blue). He went on: " Bringing in this world-class player is a major boost for the sport in this country.... a fantastic addition to an already formidable squad... demonstrates the ambition of Warrington Wolves..."

Meanwhile, back in 2019, the Wire come to Spotland on the back of a fairly routine 38-12 pre-season blow-out against a wobbling Widnes (who this week are beset by rumours of their impending implosion ignited by a messy take-over wrangle in which each of the three protagonists appear to have said "I don't want it").

Star of the show was former Canberra Raiders half Blake Austin, weighing in with his debut try and a handful of try-assists in a barn-storming 70 minute showcase. He was ably supported by Jake Mamo - another new acquisition - who clocked up a hat-trick playing mostly out-of position on the wing and having started on the bench!

The DR Menu: Wire name a squad packed with future talent
For Saturday, though, Warrington have named a side comprising 'future talent', most eye-catchingly Harvey Livett and Pat Moran who have both turned in excellent performances in Hornets jerseys over the last couple of years. The squad also includes former Penrith and Wests Tigers' Tongan forward Sitaleki Akauloa who played 24 games in Super League last term.  New signing from. London Matt Davis will also feature. Individual clash of the day sees Dan Abram line up opposite his brother Jamie. One way or another, tea round the Abram house should be interesting on Saturday evening.

We anticipate a stern test as Carl Forster looks to iron out the not unsubstantial wrinkles that made the Law Cup a hard game to enjoy. Indeed, in his post-match comments, Forster accused his side of 'panicking' when they got into good positions: forcing passes and committing errors that gave Oldham plenty of cheap ball.

On an afternoon of few highlights, a couple of things stood out for us: the left-edge partnership of Ben Morris and Brandon Wood looks like it has plenty of potential (and points) in it - and Scott Moore put in another sterling shift at half and hooker, an eye-catching 40/20 the pick of his contribution.

Elsewhere there was a lot of graft, but little craft - so Saturday provides the opportunity to fine-tune some key aspects of the side before the serious business begins on February 3rd.

See you Saturday.