THEY say don’t count your chickens until they have hatched, but Wakefield Trinity appear to be on very fertile ground indeed.
New owner Matt Ellis has brought a breath of fresh air into the West Yorkshire club when it all seemed doom and gloom following Trinity’s relegation from Super League at the end of the 2023 season.
Previous chairman John Minards and chief executive Michael Carter had done a commendable job in keeping Wakefield afloat for the past decade, but the writing had been on the wall – or rather the field – before a ball had been kicked in 2023.
The loss of experienced stalwarts such as David Fifita, Jacob Miller, Bill Tupou and Tinirau Arona didn’t help whilst head coach Mark Applegarth suffered in his first professional head coaching job.
Wind the clock back a number of months after relegation was confirmed and Trinity have a new owner, a new head coach, a new backroom staff, a whole host of new players and a new stand.
In Daryl Powell, Wakefield have a head coach that has a great deal of experience in turning around clubs in the doldrums – he did it at Featherstone Rovers and most spectacularly at Castleford Tigers where he transformed the club from perennial strugglers to silverware contenders.
Of course, Powell endured a difficult time at the Warrington Wolves but there he was a small fish in a big pond. Now he has been given free reign by Ellis to build a squad capable of finishing top of the Championship.
Alongside Powell, Michael Shenton has joined as assistant coach with backroom staff such as Steve Mills, Matty Crowther and Ben Cooper also making the move to Belle Vue.
It is, essentially, a core group of staff reminiscent of the one that helped Castleford do something special in 2017.
Powell has also added new blood in the shape of veteran James McGillvary, who will prove to be a shrewd signing, as well as overseas imports in Toby Boothroyd and Luke Bain – both of whom have points to prove.
Lachlan Walmsley, Iain Thornley, Myles Lawford and Mathieu Cozza have also signed on the dotted line as Wakefield boast the best squad in the second tier.
There is a feel-good factor surrounding Belle Vue like rarely seen before in the Super League era, with over 3,750 fans purchasing season tickets already for 2024.
That is more than the uptake in 2023 and one that could be heading for a club record – and to be close to that in the Championship is nothing short of remarkable.
The new East Stand at Wakefield is looking mightily impressive whilst Ellis confirmed that architects are looking into plans for the West Stand in order for more stadium improvements.
Ellis himself has planned to spend big once Trinity are back in Super League – something which he feels is within the club’s grasp as Wakefield continues to tick IMG boxes ahead of the big reveal next year.
It is quite remarkable that Trinity look to be so much stronger on and off the field in the Championship than in the Super League, but it is a good way of resetting and enjoying what looks to be just one year in the second tier.
Their fans are buying into Ellis and Powell and in a city and wider metropolitan district that possesses almost 354,000 people – according to the 2021 census – the ambition should be endless.
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