THERE WAS a time when unfashionable Wakefield Trinity’s best players would more often than not move on elsewhere to better their chances of success.
Gareth Ellis, David Solomona, Ryan Atkins, Paul Aiton and Kyle Amor are just a few who have been sold to Super League rivals during the summer era.
It has been a given that the West Yorkshire club can simply not hold its own with the sport’s heavyweights.
However, the times are a changing at Belle Vue with Trinity now showing signs of being able to retain their best talent.
Granted, they are not suddenly splashing the cash – Chris Chester’s side are reportedly the lowest-spenders in Super League with an outlay well below the salary cap – but there is certainly a clear sign players want to hang around.
The latest to do so is Ben Jones-Bishop, the prolific winger who ignored significant interest from others to sign a new three-year deal earlier this week.
His decision follows swiftly on from in-demand Australian prop Andrew Fifita who also turned down suitors last month to re-sign for Trinity along with fellow countryman Jacob Miller, the talented half-back.
Perhaps it is no surprise; Wakefield are on a seven-game winning run with a growing belief that they will not only secure a top-eight spot for a second season running but perhaps also notch a summer era best top-four finish.
Furthermore, impressive young winger Tom Johnstone, though now injured, has long since confirmed his commitment to the club until 2020 and others are in the pipeline.
They reached the Challenge Cup semi-finals last year and will do so again if they win at Salford Red Devils on Thursday, opponents who are running second but whose own seven-game winning run was ruined by Chester’s side last Sunday.
Wakefield’s stock – and position – will rise further if they defeat illustrious neighbours Leeds Rhinos in tonight’s intriguing derby at Belle Vue, when an eighth successive victory will see them usurp their rivals from third.
Jones-Bishop, of course, won two Grand Finals and a World Club Challenge with hometown Leeds before joining Salford in 2015 and, then, 12 months later, heading to Wakefield.
He, however, believes he has every chance of lifting silverware with Trinity, too, and that was one of the principal reasons he decided to extend his stay despite interest from clubs such as Catalans Dragons.
“We were one step away from the Challenge Cup final last year,” said Jones-Bishop.
“The important thing for me was keeping the majority of the squad together.
“Look at the success Castleford are having at the moment; the majority of their squad has been together for two or three seasons and they are reaping the rewards from that with the way they are playing. That had a big influence on me, the re-signings the club made before.
“They’ve added well, brought in some experience, improved and I don’t see why we can’t be challenging for trophies in the next few years. That’s the aim.”
Jones-Bishop has scored 26 tries in 37 games since joining from Salford, including 14 in as many matches this campaign.
He admitted: “I was keen to stay. In my two years here I have enjoyed it and I think I have progressed. They have brought the best out of me and as a club it has been growing as well.
“There was interest from elsewhere, but it was just a case of weighing everything up and seeing what was best for me and best for my family.”
Tonight Trinity are keen to atone after their 38-14 defeat at Headingley in March.
“That and Castleford away were the two times we’d probably say as a team we were not in the game,” said Jones-Bishop, who scored 56 tries in 82 matches for Leeds.
“We were massively disappointed. It was a long time ago, but we will be looking to put that right and keep on the form and the run we are on at the minute.
“It is always nice to play against them; it’s where I came through, I had some early success there and always relish the opportunity to play against them and some of my old team-mates.”