Mariano is gunning for glory as Trinity eye play-offs

Frankie Mariano
Frankie Mariano
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He has a compelling name which resonates more with a Mafiosi film than one of rugby league’s traditional heartlands.

Frankie Mariano certainly sounds like a nefarious character from Goodfellas but is actually a proud son of east Hull... with a father from the west coast of Africa.

However, the rangy second-row is proving a bit of a hitman for Wakefield Trinity Wildcats during their brilliant winning run which, if extended to seven tomorrow, will see them incredulously finish the season in that crucial eighth and final play-off spot.

Wherever you look in Richard Agar’s squad this term, there are comeback stories beaming out.

There is the nomadic Australian scrum-half Tim Smith proving his countless doubters wrong, Richard Mathers making a mockery of Castleford’s bizarre decision to loan him out, the troubled Ben Cockayne re-emerging with aplomb after being banished to the Championship, and Paul Sykes glowing again after being unwanted at Odsal. The list goes on.

They have all developed in a slow-burning style over the course of this season, though, while Mariano’s has fizzed into life like a burst of Tommy-gun fire during this dramatic late run.

Considered not up to scratch by Agar as recently as late July, he has addressed some deficiencies, worked hard on his game and took his opportunity when Ali Lauitiiti was suspended for the fixture against Leeds Rhinos.

Mariano, 25, impressed in that memorable 38-18 victory and has retained his place ever since as Trinity have knocked off Castleford, St Helens, Hull KR and Widnes in consecutive weekends.

He has done enough in this period to convince his coach he is worthy of another one-year deal, which was announced yesterday, and things are looking bright.

“Everyone’s got their form together,” Mariano told the Yorkshire Post. “Last Sunday (against Widnes) was my best performance of the year and hopefully I can carry that on against Salford.

“It’s great to get another deal with a year and the option of another. I want to start next season how I’m finishing this one but we’re not thinking about that yet.

“We want to get in these play-offs and carry on just how we’ve been playing.”

Agar has certainly created some alchemy from – as Mathers puts it – this “bunch of gypsies” assembled at Belle Vue. There were 17 new arrivals at the start of the season meaning Mariano, who had joined the year before after being cut at hometown Hull KR, was almost an odd man out.

The dynamic forward, though, always realised there was scope for something great to materialise even if Trinity struggled early on.

“I knew straight away that we were on to a good thing,” he recalled. “Everyone got on immediately and everyone gelled as a squad of players. It’s taken some time getting the actual results but we’re getting them now.

“I had a bit of inconsistency with injuries and performance but I’m going well now too and need to take that into Salford.”

Mariano, who made just four appearances with Rovers, had shown promising signs under previous coach John Kear after joining last season but fell behind youngsters Kyle Trout and Lucas Walshaw this time around.

Agar has got him firing once more, though, along with assistant Glenn Morrison, the revered Australian who is no stranger to the arts of back-row play having been a Wildcats favourite before retiring in November.

“Morro’s done really well,” admitted Mariano, about the ex-Bradford Bulls star who was yesterday confirmed as Dewsbury Rams’ new head coach for 2013.

“He was a senior player last year doing some coaching too which helped me out and he’s carried that on this year.

“He knows what he’s doing and is very professional. Rich has been great as well. He’s helped me heaps this year and brought out my potential. I’m looking forward to working together next year.”

First, though, comes the challenge of Salford. They may have lost their previous six games – their last win was at Hull KR on July 8, the same day Wakefield last lost a game, going down 52-10 at home to Wigan – but their wary visitors take no comfort from that.

Wakefield almost came unstuck against bottom-placed Widnes on Sunday before Mariano’s break set up a crucial Lauitiiti try and then captain Danny Kirmond sneaked a win in the 76th minute.

If rivals Bradford Bulls lose in Perpignan tomorrow afternoon, Trinity will be safe in eighth regardless but he insists they must dismiss Salford whatever.

“We don’t want to leave it down to other teams losing to do us a favour,” said the strong-running Mariano, who scored in their 
31-30 win at former club Rovers.

“We need to make sure we’re in there by winning and go in to the play-offs firing on the back of another victory rather than just limping. Once you’re in the play-offs anything can happen so we could pull off a shock in there.

“It was a poor performance against Widnes but we ground out the win. We’re looking forward to Saturday now to put right those wrongs.

“As long as we play to our potential we can beat anyone but it’s Salford’s last game of the season and – like all clubs – they’ll want to go out with a bang.”

With Salford’s threat duly noted, what about that intriguing name of his then?

“Everyone says I must be Italian but my dad’s actually from Cape Verdi Islands,” explained Mariano. “He moved a long, long time ago, way before I was born, and parted from my mum too.

“I’ve lived in east Hull all my life and it’s just the three of us now – me, my mum and my brother.

“There’s a few of us commute over though. Washy (Danny Washbrook), Motu Tony and Andy Ellis. We have a good laugh.”

The question that remains is where will Trinity’s own journey end? If results go according to plan, they will head to champions Leeds in the play-offs’ first round.

On this recent inspiring, unrivalled form, and having only narrowly lost 44-40 at Headingley in June, the defending champions will not daunt them or Mariano in the slightest.