WAKEFIELD Trinity Wildcats coach James Webster has revealed he offered to make a Leigh Centurions player one of his side’s top earners – only to be told the target was getting more money with the Championship club.
He was talking ahead of tomorrow’s intriguing Challenge Cup sixth-round tie between the sides, attempting to illustrate how serious and competitive Leigh are.
The televised game is, of course, so fascinating given Wakefield sit bottom of Super League after 11 straight losses in that competition – while their visitors, the Championship Grand Final winners and current leaders, are incredulously seeking a 25th successive victory.
Ambitious Leigh are intent on securing promotion to the elite this season, possibly at the expense of the Wildcats, and tomorrow is seen as another chance for their confident side, who went full-time in December, to demonstrate their prowess.
Webster is under no illusions as to how fragile his side may be viewed, especially considering their opponents have already knocked out Super League’s Salford Red Devils from the competition.
“I don’t think we’re the favourites with the bookies,” he said, Leigh including ex-England second-row Gareth Hock and Kiwi cult hero Fuifui Moimoi in their ranks.
“I wouldn’t say we’re favourites; Leigh have a couple of internationals, seem to have a huge amount of money to spend, have won a huge amount of games and forgotton how to lose.
“I went for one of their players. He’d have become one of our highest paid – and we couldn’t match the money Leigh gave him.
“I’m not saying they’re spending more than us, but they’ve had a good crack at it. I think it’ll be a good, close, traditional Cup tie.”
Clearly, Wakefield are in dire need for a positive result although they seem destined to finish in the bottom four – and face Leigh again in the Qualifiers.
Webster added: “We wouldn’t be the first team that maybe resurrected their season on a good Cup run.
“Our mood’s reasonably good for a team that has been struggling. We are fully focused on finishing the season well.
“Everyone knows we’ll play each other again at the end of the season, but whoever wins this it won’t be a forgone conclusion they’ll win again later in the year.
“I’m not into the psychological side of it; teams are in different form and have different players available – and that middle eight is 10 weeks away yet. I’m not too worried about that yet.”
Hopes are aided by the return to fitness of a number of players including Dean Collis, Danny Kirmond, Ali Lauitiiti and Lopini Paea if they successfully negotiate today’s final training session.
Leigh, meanwhile, are captained by ex-Wakefield forward Oliver Wilkes and former Trinity youngster Liam Kay.
“People seem to think we let Liam go but we offered him a contract,” said Webster, about the 23-year-old winger who has been prolific since that move.
“It’s just that Leigh doubled what was on offer at our place.”