Trinity keen to bounce back from 2020
Wakefield Trinity have lost a considerable amount of experience in the close-season, mainly to clubs in the Championship.
At the age of 38, former Man of Steel and Albert Goldthorpe Medallist heads for new pastures with Bradford Bulls, although injury had restricted him to just two matches for Trinity in 2020.
And there are a whole host veteran Trinity stars who will head to York City Knights for the new season, including former captain Danny Kirmond, his fellow veteran Ryan Atkins and winger Ben Jones-Bishop, all of whom are now in their thirties.
Prop forward Craig Kopczak heads to Featherstone Rovers at the age of 34, while George King headed to Hull Kingston Rovers in the latter part of last season.
And there are two Trinity players heading to London Broncos. Romain Navarrete was with Trinity on a season-long loan in 2020, but in 2021 he has now signed a full-time contract for the Broncos. Navarrete will head to the capital with 21-year-old prop forward Titus Gwaze, whose signing by the capital club was announced earlier this month, after Gwaze had played five Super League matches since his debut in 2019, while also playing 18 matches on loan with Oldham in that time.
The final departure is fullback or halfback Tony Gigot, who joined Trinity in 2020 on a contract for 2021. But Gigot suffered from homesickness and was released from his contract to head home to play for Avignon in the French Elite League.
There will only be one completely new face at Wakefield in 2021, and that is Samoan international Mason Lino, who joins the club from Newcastle Knights.
Lino, 27, made his NRL debut for the New Zealand Warriors in 2015, going on to play 17 games for them in four seasons, before then spending two seasons with the Knights, playing 17 games in total. During his NRL career he scored five tries and kicked 64 goals. He has been given Danny Brough’s number 7 squad number.
There are also three other players who Trinity fans had got used to seeing in 2020.
Eddie Battye came to Wakefield from London Broncos on loan in the latter part of the 2020 season, playing eight Super League games, and he now joins the club on a three-year contract.
Winger Liam Kay joined Wakefield last July on loan from Toronto Wolfpack, but he is now at Belle Vue on a permanent two-year contract.
And fellow winger Ines Senior is back at Belle Vue, again on a year-long loan from Huddersfield Giants, as he was in 2020, when he played eight matches for Trinity, scoring four tries.
Max Jowitt has been awarded squad number one in 2021, suggesting that he will be the first in line for the fullback spot when the season begins next month. It’s a reward for some outstanding performances by Jowitt in 2020, which saw him make 14 starts, scoring six tries and seven goals and consolidating his position in the latter part of the season.
Jowitt has taken the shirt from Alex Walker, its occupant last season, who reverts to squad number 21 that Jowitt had last year.
Jacob Miller and Mason Lino look likely to partner each other at halfback, with Lino coming in as a direct replacement for Danny Brough, while the experienced Ryan Hampshire is also a contender for those positions as well as fullback.
And then there is Connor Bailey, aged just 20, who played five Super League games for Wakefield in 2020, but who will, perhaps surprisingly, head to Newcastle Thunder on a season-long loan in 2021.
The two Woods, Kyle and Josh, will battle for the hooker starting role in 2021, with 19-year-old Harry Bowes, who made two appearances in 2020, also available to step into that role if one or both of the Woods is unavailable.
Five of the six pack squad numbers from the 2020 season remain unchanged for 2021, suggesting stability at the club, with only Danny Kirmond’s squad number 12 becoming available, and this year it is filled by Kelepi Tanginoa, who was Trinity’s player of the year last year.
If we assume that the squad numbers reflect the side’s likely starting positions, then Trinity’s pack looks to be as competitive as most of their opponents in Super League.
But several of those stars played considerably fewer than the 19 Super League matches Trinity played in 2020, so, if that happens again, the back-up players will have a significant role to play.
Trinity have undeniably lost some pack power over the close-season, but if they can avoid large-scale injury problems in 2021 then they should be competitive against most of their opponents. Jay Pitts, Eddie Battye, James Batchelor, Chris Green, Jordan Crowther, Adam Tangata, Yusuf Aydin, Harry Bowes and Dane Windrow all in the mix for pack places, while Brad Walker will be hoping for more outings at loose forward than the three outings he got in 2020.
Trinity’s threequarter line this season will see Liam Kay replace Ben Jones-Bishop in the number 5 shirt, while he will have to battle Innes Senior for a starting spot on the wing.
Tom Johnstone, Bill Tupou and Reece Lyne made 45 starting line-ups between them, suggesting that their places are secure, so the real interest in looking at Trinity’s threequarters will be to see who gets the right-wing spot.
If there are any injuries to the first-choice players, then there are three other players – Joe Arundel, Jack Croft and Lee Kershaw – all waiting to step up, and all three of them will no doubt be trying to push for a regular spot in the side.
Arundel, 29, has been at Wakefield since 2015, when he joined the club from Hull FC, but in 2020 he made only two Super League appearances.
Croft, 20, made his Super League debut in 2020, creating an immediately favourable impression and making five Super League appearances in 2020 and now is surely his time to stake a claim to start every week.
Kershaw, 21, who has spent time on loan with Oldham since making his Super League debut in 2019, made only two first-grade appearances in 2020 and was reported to have considered finding a career outside Rugby League. It would be good to see him getting more opportunities in 2021.
Innes Senior (20), Jack Croft (20), Yusuf Aydin (20), Lee Kershaw (21), Connor Bailey (20), Oliver Greensmith (21), Harry Bowes (19) and Dane Windrow (19) are the members of Trinity’s 2012 who are 21 or under at the start of the season.
Of those players, Senior and Croft are the two most likely to get runs early in the season, while Kershaw can be called up knowing that he will not let the side down.
Bailey is due to spend the season with Newcastle Thunder, while Aydin, who was selected as a rookie to watch in last week’s League Express, and Bowes will both be hoping to build on the debuts they enjoyed in 2020.
The two players who have yet to make their first-grade debuts are centre Greensmith, a local junior who came from the Crigglestone All Blacks club, and backrower Windrow, who Trinity snapped up from Brighouse Rangers in the Calderdale district.
Some of those youngsters will no doubt be much better known by the end of the 2021 season.
A REALISTIC AIM FOR 2021
Wakefield coach Chris Chester will be hoping for a much better 2021 season than the one he had to endure in 2020, when Trinity lost ten successive games after coming out of lockdown.
The Trinity squad should be well capable of doing better than that, although much will depend on the impact that newcomer Mason Lino has on the side at halfback and how well he combines with captain Jacob Miller.
Trinity are perhaps unlikely to gain a play-off place at the end of the season, but they should be capable of finishing reasonably well clear of the bottom spot in the competition, while they will perhaps fancy their chances of making a realistic bid to reach Wembley in the Challenge Cup Final in July.
No doubt they will be helped by the addition of Andy Last to the coaching team. Last brings strong analytical skills to his role and he could prove to be the shrewdest signing of the close-season at Belle Vue.
Squad numbers: 1 Max Jowitt, 2 Tom Johnstone, 3 Bill Tupou, 4 Reece Lyne, 5 Liam Kay, 6 Jacob Miller, 7 Mason Lino, 8 David Fifita, 9 Kyle Wood, 10 Tinirau Arona, 11 Matty Ashurst, 12 Kelepi Tanginoa, 13 Joe Westerman, 14 Jay Pitts, 15 Eddie Battye, 16 James Batchelor, 17 Chris Green, 18 Innes Senior, 19 Jordan Crowther, 20 Joe Arundel, 21 Alex Walker, 22 Adam Tangata, 23 Josh Wood, 24 Jack Croft, 25 Brad Walker, 26 Yusuf Aydin, 27 Lee Kershaw, 29 Ryan Hampshire, 31 Connor Bailey, 32 Oli Greensmith, 33 Harry Bowes, 34 Dane Windrow.
Ins: Eddie Battye (London Broncos), Liam Kay (Toronto Wolfpack), Mason Lino (Newcastle Knights), Innes Senior (Huddersfield Giants – season loan).
Outs: Ryan Atkins (York City Knights), Danny Brough (Bradford Bulls), Tony Gigot (Avignon), Titus Gwaze (London Broncos), Ben Jones-Bishop (York City Knights), George King (Hull Kingston Rovers), Danny Kirmond (York City Knights), Craig Kopczak (Featherstone Rovers), Romain Navarrete (London Broncos).
The coaching team
Head coach: Chris Chester
Assistant coach: Andy Last
Assistant coach: Willie Poching
Head of Performance: Martin Clawson
Head of Youth: Mark Applegarth
Lead Strength & Conditioning coach: Joel Fulford
Strength & conditioning coach: Ash Robinson
Player Welfare & Team Manager: Stuart Dickens
Head Physiotherapist: Ryan Carmody
Performance Analyst: Mark Houlton
Chairman: John Minards
Chief Executive: Michael Carter
Stadium Manager: Kevin Preston
Commercial Manager: Verity Thomas
Media Manager: Connor Grace
Facilities Manager: Paul Presley
Retail Manager: Darren Pitchforth
Home Shirt: Dark blue shirt with a white hoop around the middle surrounded by smaller red hoops
Away Shirt: Light blue shirt with a slightly darker blue V
Betfred odds to win the Grand Final: 66/1
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