There was a contagious sense of excitement in the Cats Bar, Wakefield’s lively establishment for supporters, when Chris Chester spoke about the the club’s recruitment plans.
The Wakefield head coach caused the Trinity fans to erupt in delight when he shared his hopes of bringing in a number of big-name signings to the club ahead of 2017.
Competition at halfback, more strike in the back-row and another big prop are on Chester’s radar for 2017 as he looks to launch Wakefield up the table after an impressive opening stint at the helm.
Although Wakefield have done superbly to make the top eight and reach the Challenge Cup semi-final, Chester and the club’s hierarchy know they can’t rest on their laurels after a solid year of consolidation.
However, although an injection of quality to the squad is important, perhaps the biggest piece of business that the club must do is re-sign Australian forward David Fifita.
The Wildcats forward confirmed in League Express last week that he intends to stay in Super League, and preferably at Belle Vue, after the conclusion of this season, but his contract is set to expire after signing on a short-term deal earlier this year
Since his arrival from Cronulla, his impact has been highly impressive. A strong ball-carrier, Fifita has added a physical element to the Wakefield pack that they have lacked in previous seasons. Wakefield had been overpowered down the middle too often for years before his arrival, but they are far more sturdy with the 27-year-old on the pitch.
Offensively, Fifita has made a habit of running diagonal lines towards the opponent’s wide areas, which has given Wakefield more of an attacking threat on the flanks, while defensively he takes on the enforcer role that has been played so well by players in Grand Final winning sides of the Super League era. He has provided Wakefield with doses of everything they have lacked since Ali Lauitiiti and Kyle Amor helped guided them to a play-off finish in 2012.
His commercial value should also be pivotal to the club’s plans going forward too. Fifita is the latest fan favourite in a side that the Wakefield faithful has a great affinity for. In Max Jowitt, Tom Johnstone, Jacob Miller and Fifita, Chester has the makings of a side that fans could be talking about in years and decades to come should the heart of the team be kept intact, and more quality be sprinkled across the team elsewhere.
As a club, Wakefield is in its strongest position to attract high-quality players for some time, but first, they must ensure they don’t lose the star quality already in the side.
In Fifita, Wakefield have a ‘big-name’ player that Chester alluded to, and they must keep him at the club to ensure the club continues to make strides forward .