Chris Chester has high hopes for Wakefield Trinity in Super League

Despite some initial concerns, Wakefield Trinity head coach Chris Chester maintains he has every confidence that his squad can deliver for him in 2021.

The West Yorkshire club start their Betfred Super League campaign with a derby against Leeds Rhinos on Saturday, hoping to improve vastly on last term.

Trinity finished second bottom and went on a wretched 10-game losing run which, at one point, left a disillusioned Chester threatening significant personnel changes to his under-performing squad for this year.

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In the end, there has not been any such drastic action taken with only one new arrival – the Samoa stand-off Mason Lino from NRL club Newcastle Knights – meaning he has to make sure he gets more out of those at his disposal.

However, the 42-year-old, who saw his squad decimated by Covid-related issues and injuries last term, believes he is capable of doing just that.

The addition of new assistant coaches Andy Last and Willie Poching has freshened things up at Belle Vue and the former Hull KR chief is picking from strength for the contest at Emerald Headingley.

Asked how confident he can get the performance out of them this year, Chester insisted: “I feel when we get our best players out on the training field – and on matchday – we can be a match for anybody.

“We had our strongest team last year for four games out of the 19 we played.

Wakefield head coach Chris Chester. Picture Bruce Rollinson

“So, yes, I am really confident. Really confident. I think Saturday will give us a good marker of where we are as a group and I am looking forward to seeing how these new combinations work out on the weekend.”

The new combination mentioned is principally that of Lino with Australian playmaker and captain Jacob Miller.

Lino did suffer an injury in their pre-season game against Dewsbury Rams but Chester maintains the 27-year-old former New Zealand Warrior is good to go for his Super League debut.

“Mase is fine; we’ve wrapped him up in cotton wool this week and I’m looking forward to seeing how that spine works,” he said.

Wakefield Trinity's Mason Lino. Picture: Jack Wray/Super League Europe/via SWpix.com

“The main priority for us at the end of last season was to bring in an established half and having done backgrounds checks on Mason, speaking to people who I respect, I was really impressed.

“His arrival will take a lot of pressure off Jacob Miller. At times last year we went into games with only one recognised half-back and we were having to play players out of position like Max Jowitt and Ryan Hampshire.

“We also had to throw young Connor Bailey in at times.

“So, just to have an established half-back in the team to get us around the field, I think will make the job of Milky (Miller) a lot easier in that he won’t have the weight on his shoulders.

Leeds's Luke Gale.

“He can play his own game and has a calming influence alongside him in Mase who is a very knowledgeable guy.

“He’s asking plenty of questions and he’s brought a real professionalism to the outfit. He’s a smart footballer and has some real smart ideas about how the game should be played.

“I’m looking forward especially to those two guys playing together on Saturday.”

Although Trinity’s first-choice half-back pairing is fixed and firing, their opponents is far from it.

Rhinos head coach Richard Agar would not reveal yesterday whether England scrum-half Luke Gale, his captain, and their new signing Kyle Eastmond would play or not.

Gale has always faced a race against time to be fit for the opener after tearing a pectoral muscle injury – which has a 12-week recovery period – in the first pre-season training session on January 4.

Given stand-off Robert Lui is definitely ruled out along with Callum McLelland and usual replacement Richie Myler is likely to be needed to fill in at full-back following other injuries, Leeds’s half-back pairing is proving troublesome.

Eastmond signed for the Challenge Cup holders earlier this month but has spent the last decade in rugby union and has not played any rugby since last March.

Agar said both are “close” to fitness but would not confirm they would play.

On 31-year-old Eastmond’s chances of playing, he said: “We won’t leave him out if he’s ready to play. But if we don’t feel he’s ready, we won’t take any risks.

“We will work that out and we are heading in the right direction with him; whether it’s this week, next week or the week after it is good for the game to have such a talented player returning from rugby union.

“Luke is pretty fit anyway. He just needs everything ticking off from the surgeon to make sure there are no last minute worries on his part.”

Agar confirmed young centre Jack Broadbent, 20, will be named in Rhinos’ 21-man squad today as “reward” for his pre-season performances.

For Wakefield, England winger Tom Johnstone was left out against Dewsbury due to a slight Achilles problem while prop Dave Fifita – who has “stripped down” in pre-season – missed it after his son fell ill.

However, Chester said they were just precautionary measures and both will play against Leeds at the weekend as Super League gets underway.

Brothers reunited: Page 23

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