LEAGUE EXPRESS previews a season that will give Trinity coach Willie Poching the chance to defy the bookmakers’ odds.
Wakefield Trinity had a disappointing season in 2021, resulting in the dismissal of their coach Chris Chester in August and the appointment of his successor Willie Poching on an interim basis initially, before he was appointed permanently to the post after the end of the season.
And Chester isn’t the only one to have paid a price for Trinity’s poor season, with ten players having left the club before the new season.
Of those departures, Trinity appear to have lost considerable creative talent, with loose forward Joe Westerman probably the greatest loss, but with two hookers, Kyle Wood and Josh Wood, heading to the Championship with Halifax and Barrow respectively, while utility man Ryan Hampshire has been released, as has former London Broncos fullback Alex Walker. Halfback Connor Bailey spent a season on loan at Newcastle Thunder and his position there has now become a permanent contract.
Prop forwards Chris Green and Ollie Greensmith have left for the Championship with Leigh and Dewsbury respectively, while threequarters Innes Senior and Joe Arundel have also departed, with Senior, who spent the 2021 season on loan at Trinity, having returned to his parent club Huddersfield, while Arundel has headed to Halifax Panthers.
There will be fewer arrivals than departures at Trinity prior to the 2022 season, but the club has focused on picking up players with proven qualities, while there have been no signings from the NRL.
In Tom Lineham, they have signed a winger who has played 177 Super League games in a career that included four seasons at Hull FC (2012-2016) and six at Warrington Wolves (2016-2021), scoring 120 tries in total and playing twice for England Knights in 2018.
Hooker Liam Hood began his career with Leeds Rhinos in 2012 and he has also played for Salford and Leigh in Super League, captaining the Centurions in 2021, as well as playing seven times for Scotland.
Queenslander Jai Whitbread is a prop or loose forward who spent three and a half seasons with Gold Coast Titans from 2018 before joining Leigh and making his debut in Super League against Catalans Dragons in August last year, playing four matches for the Centurions.
Trinity’s most crucial signing is perhaps the experienced Lee Gaskell from Huddersfield Giants, who made his Super League debut for St Helens in 2010 and then went on to play for Salford and Bradford in Super League before joining the Giants in 2017. Gaskell, who can play stand-off or fullback, has played 170 Super League games, scoring 51 tries, 44 goals and two field-goals. He will significantly improve coach Poching’s options around those positions.
Backrower Sadiq Adebiyi joins Trinity from London Broncos. Born in Nigeria, he made his Broncos’ debut in 2015 and was a key member of the club’s squad that spent a season in Super League in 2019, although injury kept him out of the side in 2021.
Trinity have also signed Thomas Minns, a centre who played for Featherstone Rovers in 2021 but who is another graduate from the Leeds Academy, having made his Super League debut with the Rhinos in 2013, before spells with London Broncos and Hull Kingston Rovers.
Their final new signing is a Fijian winger or centre, Lance Corporal John Davetanivalu, who is a Royal Signal by trade and has been a member of the British Army XV where he has played both wing and outside centre. Having graduated from St Mary’s University, Twickenham, with a degree in Sports Science, he played rugby union for London Scottish, but was given a spot on the wing against Leeds Rhinos at Headingley on Boxing Day and impressed sufficiently to be awarded a contract.
Trinity have one newcomer in their spine squad numbers, with Liam Hood taking the number 9 shirt from its former occupant Kyle Wood.
Max Jowitt has retained the number 1 shirt, despite the arrival of Lee Gaskell, who can cover fullback and both halfback roles.
Liam Kay, who wore shirt number 5 last year and has played as a winger for most of his career, is likely to be a contender for the hooking spot with Hood, having made the switch towards the end of last season, while Harry Bowes, who played one game off the bench in 2021, is another contender who is likely to get more opportunities in 2022 following the departures of Kyle and Josh Wood.
And, in an emergency, Brad Walker can fit in at stand-off half, as he did effectively in Trinity’s pre-season game against Leeds Rhinos on Boxing Day.
Trinity look to be well covered for players who are likely to feature in the pack this season.
The squad numbers suggest that Eddie Battye and Tinirau Arona are likely to be the starting prop forwards for Trinity in 2022, with Matty Ashurst, Kelepi Tanginoa and Jay Pitts occupying the backrow spots.
Also featuring in the forwards will be David Fifita, who played 25 Super League games last season, 16 of them from the bench, Jai Whitbread, Jordy Crowther and James Batchelor.
Those four are likely to be the opening contenders for the bench spots and further backup comes from the versatile Brad Walker, Yusuf Aydin and Sadiq Adebiyi, while youngsters Sam Eseh, Dane Windrow and Pat O’Donovan will also be looking to push for selection at some point during the season.
Trinity have one of the most exciting threequarter lines in Super League if they can all remain fit.
Unfortunately Tom Johnstone has had his well-documented problems with concussion, while Bill Tupou suffered a serious knee injury, rupturing a patella tendon, which restricted them to ten and eight Super League games respectively in 2021.
On the other hand, Reece Lyne played 19 Super League games, while new signing Tom Lineham played 13 for Warrington.
Johnstone’s problems allowed Lee Kershaw to play 19 games, but he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury late in the season that will keep him out of the early part of the 2022 season. And Jack Croft didn’t manage a single game for Trinity last year after going on loan to Oldham and suffering a similar ACL injury last May. That could mean that Thomas Minns, whose signing after a trial period was confirmed recently, gets some early opportunities to shine.
But there are some promising prospects on the books, with young centre Corey Hall, signed from Leeds, but originally a Wakefield Academy product, returning to Belle Vue, while Lewis Murphy and Fijian former rugby union player John Davetanivalu both looked promising in Trinity’s Boxing Day encounter with Leeds at Headingley.
Trinity look to have no shortage of young players waiting to grab their opportunities this season, with 19-year-old centre Corey Hall perhaps having the best claim.
Hooker Harry Bowes turned 20 in September and he is another young player who will be looking to make his mark this season after making one substitute appearance in 2021.
Of those who are yet to make their full debuts, other than in pre-season games, winger Lewis Murphy scored a fine try and made a good impression in Wakefield’s Boxing Day clash at Headingley, while four young forwards – Sam Eseh, Pat O’Donovan, Isaac Shaw and Dane Windrow – will all be seeking opportunities, although it is likely they will have to be satisfied with Reserve and Academy rugby for the early part of the season.
A REALISTIC AIM FOR 2022
After he took over the reins in August, Willie Poching won five out of the seven games his team played under his command.
If he could maintain that record in 2022, then Trinity would comfortably qualify for the play-offs, although Super League sponsor Betfred has Trinity in joint tenth place at 66/1 in the betting odds to win the Grand Final. Those are the same odds they quoted before last season under Chris Chester.
On the face of it, Trinity look as though they should be stronger than last year, but as always so much depends on whether they can avoid injury.
Nonetheless, under Poching they look as though they should have a definite chance of competing in the lower reaches of the play-offs.
Squad numbers: 1 Max Jowitt, 2 Tom Johnstone, 3 Bill Tupou, 4 Reece Lyne, 5 Tom Lineham, 6 Jacob Miller, 7 Mason Lino, 8 Eddie Battye, 9 Liam Hood, 10 Tinirau Arona, 11 Matty Ashurst, 12 Kelepi Tanginoa, 13 Jay Pitts, 14 Jordy Crowther, 15 Jai Whitbread, 16 James Batchelor, 17 Lee Gaskell, 18 Lee Kershaw, 19 Liam Kay, 20 Jack Croft, 21 Brad Walker, 22 Yusuf Aydin, 23 Sadiq Adebiyi, 24 Harry Bowes, 25 Sam Eseh, 26 Pat O’Donovan, 27 Lewis Murphy, 28 Dane Windrow, 29 Isaac Shaw, 30 Corey Hall, 31 Thomas Minns, 32 John Davetanivalu, 35 David Fifita
Ins: Tom Lineham (Warrington Wolves), Liam Hood (Leigh Centurions), Jai Whitbread (Leigh Centurions), Lee Gaskell (Huddersfield Giants), Sadiq Adebiyi (London Broncos), Corey Hall (Leeds Rhinos), Thomas Minns (Featherstone Rovers), John Davetanivalu (Army RU)
Outs: Kyle Wood (Halifax Panthers), Joe Westerman (Castleford Tigers), Chris Green (Leigh Centurions), Innes Senior (Huddersfield Giants – loanee return to parent club), Joe Arundel (Halifax Panthers), Alex Walker (released), Josh Wood (Barrow Raiders), Ryan Hampshire (released), Connor Bailey (Newcastle Thunder), Ollie Greensmith (Dewsbury Rams)
The coaching team
Head coach: Willie Poching
Assistant coach: Francis Cummins
Assistant coach: Mark Applegarth
Head of S&C: Jon Kelly
Strength & conditioning coach: Ash Robinson
Welfare & Team Manager: Stuart Dickens
Head Physiotherapist: Dave Cooper
Physiotherapists: Leanne McPherson, Catherine Boal, Ryan Carmody
Performance Analyst: Mark Houlton
Head Groundsman: Steve Dutton
Chairman: John Minards
Chief Executive: Michael Carter
General Manager: Kevin Preston
Commercial Manager: Verity Thomas
Media Manager: Connor Grace
Facilities Manager: Paul Presley
Retail Manager: Darren Pitchforth
Home Shirt: White Shirt with Blue and Red trimmings
Away Shirt: Black Shirt with Blue and White trimmings
Betfred odds to win the Grand Final: 66/1
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