FOR someone more accustomed to the sunshine of Penrith’s Blue Mountains, Wakefield Trinity Wildcats coach Brian Smith is surprisingly happy to see this week’s adverse weather.
The Australian knows that his side could do with a little help when it comes to tackling Catalans Dragons tomorrow and the sight of snow, sleet and rain should play into their favour.
Wakefield, last season’s bottom team, have been much more competitive so far but still remain with just one win from their opening four games, a hard-fought success at depleted Hull KR.
To get them that second one, they will take any advantage they can grasp and, therefore, they will hope Catalans’ array of Australian and New Zealand talents might not necessarily be too keen on a mudbath at Trinity’s Rapid Solicitors Stadium.
Asked what he was expecting from Sunday’s sole Super League fixture, Smith said: “It’s going to be a bit of a slog I’d say.
“A lot will depend on the weather this weekend so we’ll see how the pitch is.
“I think it puts things in our favour without a doubt.
“You certainly don’t see weather like this too often in the south of France, but that’s all on paper – we’ve got to make it work in our advantage when the game kicks off on Sunday.
“But we’ll be ready for whatever is thrown our way.”
Wakefield are boosted by the return of former Leeds Rhinos full-back Ben Jones-Bishop and Australian prop Scott Anderson although captain Danny Kirmond is not yet deemed fit enough to resume after his own injury.
Catalans edged home 32-28 against winless Leeds in Perpignan a week ago but looked vulnerable defensively at times, something Wakefield will spot, and have lost their two other games against Hull FC at home and at Wigan.
It is a strange start to the Super League season, however, with Leeds and Huddersfield struggling so badly and the likes of Widnes and Salford – in last year’s Qualifiers – delivering much more than expected.
“Everyone looks pretty damn good at the moment,” insisted Smith, whose side fell 34-16 at Warrington last week.
“Therefore we should have a lot of respect for our opponents.
“We’re learning to respect ourselves too and guys are learning to trust each other.
“We’re still having some moments in games where we’re not getting the job done, but we’re getting closer to doing it more often than not.
“Within our own group I feel like we’re about where we thought we’d be.
“On reflection we could have beaten Widnes on the opening day, Castleford outplayed us everywhere on the day, and we won at Hull KR in tough circumstances before losing to Warrington,” he said.
“Competing is the word we’re liking to use, and our next phase involves us continuing that and having fewer lapses.”
Catalans are augmented by the return of their captain Remi Casty, the redoubtable France prop, and their weaponry includes no fewer than four former Australian Test players – Todd Carney, Glenn Stewart, Dave Taylor and Willie Mason. Clearly, they have yet to fully fire but Smith maintained: “Anyone who was expecting big things so early on from a team who’s got as many new players as they have are being a bit harsh.
“We’ve got some similarities in that regard ourselves, and trying to get it to come together as quickly as you can is tough, I know that.”
More pertinently for the hosts, the performance at Warrington was a marked improvement on their last visit there – which ended in a record-breaking 80-0 defeat last April, a result that signalled the start of the end for then head coach James Webster.
“There were a few guys who were involved in that result last year, and I mentioned after the game that it’s not the sort of occasion you forget in a hurry, losing a game like that,” added Smith.
“I reckon that was a good thing for them to compete against a side like that and put that result last year to bed.
“I think the mentality is changing.
“In terms of competitiveness and self-respect, I think we’re seeing that grow all the time.
“Trust is another big thing here too that’s developing, and we’re building a team who we believe can sustain ourselves at this level.
“We’re getting there, and we’re starting to see hints of that in our play – we’ve done it in seven out of our eight halves thus far.”
If they can do so in the next two, they might be on the way to that crucial second win of 2016.