HAVING already ventured to one of his former clubs and earned a surprise win, Wakefield Trinity Wildcats’ player Ben Jones-Bishop is looking to instantly repeat the feat tomorrow.
He was part of the Trinity side that stunned champions Leeds Rhinos on Easter Monday, his hometown team where he won back-to-back Grand Finals in 2011 and 2012.
It was lowly Wakefield’s first triumph at Headingley since 2007 and completed a memorable holiday period in which they had already dispatched Huddersfield Giants on Good Friday.
However, although the two victories have invigorated their season, the work is not yet done and they hope to complete a trio of successes by prospering against Salford Red Devils this afternoon – where full-back Jones-Bishop scored 16 tries in 25 games last year.
Yet given Wakefield’s rapid improvement since head coach Chris Chester came in barely a fortnight ago, any victory might not actually be rated a ‘surprise.’
Jones-Bishop was signed for Wakefield by Brian Smith, the veteran Australian who surprisingly quit early in the season, and he believes the club are now playing “smarter” under their new coach.
“We are playing with a lot of confidence,” said Jones-Bishop, who was in England’s Four Nations squad in 2011 without ever making his debut.
“In games previously we weren’t far away, but we just couldn’t play for 80 minutes.
“We had periods which let us down but now we are really working hard for each other, we’ve got plenty of attitude and I think we are playing a bit smarter than we did at the beginning of the season.”
Wakefield, who finished bottom last term and only survived by beating Bradford Bulls in the Million Pound Game, have been known for conceding copious amounts of points.
Therefore, their recent resilience is what has cheered Jones-Bishop the most, especially having conceded just 16 points at Headingley in their 20-16 win.
“It was attitude and effort,” said Jones-Bishop.
“I think we’ve had it throughout the year, but we have shown that extra smartness the last few weeks and it is paying off for us.
“If we can win against Salford we will be in good shape. It is the first time in a long time Wakefield have managed back-to-back wins over Easter, but it’s usually the third game that’s the toughest.
“We had had a few days to rest up and recover, but we are looking to make it three out of three.”
They will draw level with Salford on nine points if they do that and potentially be in the top eight.
Their hosts won at Huddersfield on Monday and, though they have been inconsistent, Jones-Bishop is fully aware of their threat.
Many of his former team-mates remain at Salford and he added: “It is a tough league. The table is all over the place at the minute, so you have to be on your mettle every week.
“We have got a pretty big squad and some players who played very well against Huddersfield got rested on Monday, so we are all chomping at the bit and ready to go and looking forward to the next game.
“Obviously, for me, there’s some familiar faces (at Salford), but it’s just another match. I am just looking to do my best and hopefully we can pick up another two points.
“We are playing well as a team and things are going well.”
Jones-Bishop was switched to the wing at Leeds, his sixth game so far with his only try coming in the 44-4 loss at St Helens, a defeat that came a few days after Smith’s exit.
Craig Hall played full-back instead, scoring the dramatic late winning try, as Chester continues to assess his options and combinations.
Of those looking to make an impact, prop Anthony England and former Cronulla forward Anthony Tupou are recalled after slight knocks while youngster Max Jowitt is looking to force his way back in.
Salford, meanwhile, are missing their captain Tommy Lee, the former Hull FC hooker who spent the 2011 campaign at Wakefield before moving to Huddersfield.