“We are not dead and buried,” says new Wakefield Wildcats coach Brian Smith.
It is hard to disagree with the 61 year-old, who has officially been in charge of the Super League strugglers’ last two games after taking over from James Webster.
Though both have ended in defeat, the Wildcats were unlucky to lose against Salford and then matched Catalans Dragons in the South of France for 70 minutes, before succumbing to a 16th straight Super League defeat.
In fact Wakefield have managed only four wins from their last 26 league games and face the daunting prospect of fighting for their Super League survival in the ‘Middle 8s.’
But former Roosters, Eels, Knights and Bradford Bulls boss Smith has brought a wealth of experience to Belle Vue and, perhaps more importantly – for now at least, four new faces to bolster his depleted squad.
Michael Sio, Kevin Locke, Jordan Tansey and Anthony Walker will give the Wildcats some much needed depth to the squad as Wakefield gear up for a crucial few months.
The quartet Smith has drafted in tick both the quality as well as the quantity boxes, suggesting the West Yorkshire club can’t be too far off ending their club record losing run.
“We’ve added some new players which is a show by the club that we want to do better,” Smith told Super League TV.
“We’ve covered a few bases with versatility with Jordan Tansey; and Mike Sio can play virtually every spot in the pack, though probably not in the front row.
“That front row spot can be covered by Anthony Walker who has come to us from St Helens.”
Wakefield finish the regular season with a double header against another of Smith’s old clubs, Hull FC, home and away, before playing Warrington and local rivals Castleford at Belle Vue and finishing with a trip to Huddersfield.
Despite Wakefield assured of a bottom four spot, Smith has called on fans to get behind his side for their two games against the Black and Whites this week: “It’s a bit of a request for Wildcats fans who may have been writing this season off that we’re not dead and buried and we want people to come and watch us and support us.
“It’s going to be a couple of cracking days of weather and Wednesday evening is a great chance for Wildcats fans to have a pint on the terraces and get behind your team.”
Certainly, Smith’s attempts to galvanize his players and fans can only have a positive effect and is in stark contrast to his predecessor’s comments. Webster had said way back in April that his main focus was the Middle 8s and not the first 23 rounds of the season.
Wakefield is a club that has overcome a lot of adversity in the not too distant past and they can defy the critics and survive the Middle 8 stage and retain their Super League berth, though it will not be easy.
Leigh Centurions have already beaten the Wildcats this season, in the Challenge Cup, as well as eliminating Salford from the same competition before running Warrington close in the quarter-finals; while Bradford Bulls currently sit top of the Championship having won 17 successive league games.
The Bulls and Centurions are being tipped as the two most likely to force their way back into the top flight, but it might not necessarily be at the expense of a revitalised Wakefield Wildcats.
The five games before the Middle 8s should allow Smith time to work on his side’s defensive lapses and set structures in place to make them a force in the next phase of the competition.
It’s definitely a stiff task for Wakefield, but Smith, along with his new recruits, have definitely given the side hope that they can stay in Super League.