Taking everything into account, Warrington’s rise to the top ranks of Super League has been quite remarkable.
While Hull FC’s meteoric ascent has made its fair share of headlines throughout the duration of 2016, the Wolves have gone through a similar transition in the same space of time. Frustrating underachievers in 2015, Tony Smith’s off-season overhaul has, so far at least, paid dividends as the club goes in pursuit of their first silverware in four years.
But beyond that, a path to greatness is slowly appearing in the sunrise. Not only are Warrington in the Challenge Cup Final, but the opportunity to win the treble is becoming a more realistic proposition.
Ahead of the Super 8s, Warrington, barring a significant collapse, will be in the play-offs in eight weeks time, which would keep their Grand Final hopes intact. Having already made it to the Challenge Cup Final, they currently sit a solitary point behind their Wembley opponents, Hull FC, in the race for the League Leaders’ Shield. Ultimately, Smith’s side have the opportunity to pull off the sport’s biggest domestic achievement.
“We’ve given ourselves a chance, that’s the first step,” he told TotalRL.
“To do all three is pretty tough, and there’s no doubting how tough it is in its present format. But it is possible, and the fact that we’re there and having a crack means we can see how we go.
“We’re there and thereabouts on all the three major trophies on offer. Whether that comes to fruition, we’re there fighting for each one of them and we’ve given ourself a reasonable chance with each one of them. But there’s plenty of rugby to go for, albeit we’re in a pretty strong position. On the whole, we’ve got our top players available to us and we’re in reasonable form.
“It is exciting and it’s a nice reward for the fans that have stood by us while we’ve gone through some rebuilding. It’s not a bad position to be in.
“We’re trying our best, and the reality of it is that there are two huge matches available in the season and then the longevity award for winning the League Leaders’ Shield that shows what you can do over the course of the season, not just the start, middle or finish. There are 12 teams all vying for that at the start of the season, but at this stage we’re into one of the finals, we’d like to succeed in that, but we’re also going to try our best to make the other major final.
“There are a lot of things to manage over the next little while we need to manage, there’ll be a few twists and turns and we need things to line up such as injuries and a bit of fortune. I’ve got a group that is working incredibly hard at the minute, and the harder they keep working, the luckier they might get.”
With ten games of the season remaining, the road to greatness is clear. Their first challenge comes in the shape of a resurgent St Helens side, who are quickly becoming another threat to Warrington’s ambitions.
“We’re not going to look too much further than Thursday night,” Smith said. “We’re in there fighting for those trophies. We’re not putting a priority on any over the other, we’re going to do our best in all three available trophies and see where it takes us.”
“I think Saints have improved, and they’re playing confidently at the moment. They’re arguably one of the form teams of the last month and they’re a tough team to beat when they’re on a roll. They’ll be fresh after a five-day turnaround, but we’re going to roll our sleeves up and give it our best shot. They’re a team that has worked hard to get that top four spot and they’ll be looking to consolidate it now. We’re one off Hull and we don’t want any slip-ups. If we give it our all we give ourselves as good a chance as anyone else.”