Win rate: 28.5%
It came as a great surprise when the news was revealed that Brian Smith had quit as Wakefield Wildcats head coach.
The charming Australian, who only took the job nine months previously, had spoken enthusiastically about his first full season at the Wildcats in the off-season and insisted there was no place he’d rather be.
What has altered his stance will inevitably come out over the upcoming days, but the timing of the decision certainly comes as a shock to the Wakefield fans.
It has been a slow start to the year for Wakefield, who currently sit in 10th spot on the Super League ladder following one victory in their first five games. With the large overhaul in players in the off-season, it was to be expected that the Wildcats wouldn’t hit top form from the start of the season, and other than in defeat to Castleford they have looked capable in stages through their other games.
When Smith took charge of the team last June, they were rock-bottom of Super League and destined for a battle in the Qualifiers.
Performances improved, but the results didn’t. One victory in eight Super League games brought an end to their regular season, with a 26-16 victory over Hull FC the only thing to shout about.
Ahead of the Qualifiers, Smith brought in a number of recruits to bolster his squad, most notably in the shape of Kevin Locke, the New Zealand international full-back who had left Salford under a cloud of controversy. Michael Sio, Bill Tupou, Jordan Tansey, Stuart Howarth, Andy Yates and Scott Moore were further arrivals to boost their hopes of survival.
But even with those recruits, Wakefield still had to fight for survival in the Million Pound Game with Bradford, eventually winning 24-16 in a memorable match not only for the context of the match but the scenes that followed. Throughout that time the club had to deal with the off-field matters surrounding Tim Smith and Locke, which ended with both players departing.
Keen to avoid a familiar situation this year, the Wildcats recruited strongly again for 2016. Ben Jones-Bishop, Tinirau Arona and Anthony Tupou were the big name recruits alongside Liam Finn, Ashley Gibson and Sean Morris and Jason Walton. Including his additions from the 2015 season, Smith has signed 14 players in Wakefield’s 31-man squad.
But those recruits haven’t had the desired effect so. Defeats to in-form Widnes, Castleford, Warrington and Catalans sandwiched their first victory of the season against Hull KR.
It means Smith ends with a win rate of 28.5%, which is a disappointing return. However, Smith ultimately did his job, which was to keep the club in Super League. It’s a shame we won’t see how far he could take the club, but that’s a challenge for someone else now.