EXPECTANT Wakefield Trinity Wildcats head coach James Webster has told his squad to stop thinking playing is a “chore”.
That is how he described their performance in the 50-28 Boxing Day defeat at Leeds Rhinos.
Their preparations for 2015 take another step up tomorrow when they host neighbours Featherstone Rovers in a second friendly outing and the Australian is demanding a better showing.
“Hopefully, mentally we are better than versus Leeds,” he said. “We played then like a team thinking it was a chore playing at Christmas, instead of a team going out thinking about trying to get some form on the board to get a shirt.
“The attitude has to be better this week and I am sure it will be. We have trained like that.
“We are making some progress, but you don’t know until you jump into the water and see whether it’s warm or cold.
“Until we’ve had a game with our strongest side out we aren’t going to know for sure.
“But if we can see some improvement in certain areas this week, we will walk away happy, regardless of what the score is.”
On that basis, he is ready to field most of his senior players with just forward Ian Kirke, the Grand Final winner brought in from Leeds, and ex-St Helens utility Matty Ashurst unavailable due to groin strains.
“We’ve picked a team that’s a lot stronger in certain positions,” he said, “and most of our first 20 players will be playing a good chunk of the game.”
As is so often the case, Trinity are being tipped to be in Super League’s bottom four after 23 rounds this year, which could see them facing ambitious Championship outfit Featherstone in the new structure’s middle-eights, if tomorrow’s visitors are among the second tier’s leading quartet.
Rovers were beaten in last season’s Grand Final by Leigh Centurions and will give a debut to Paul Wood tomorrow, the ex-England prop just signed from Warrington Wolves.
“They will give us more than a test,” said Webster.
“We went to their place last year and got smashed. I watched them against Castleford and they did a really good job.
“Other than last season they’ve been the yardstick in the Championship for three or four years and they are a more than capable side.
“They’ve got Paul Sykes and Paul Wood and some kids from Leeds, so they have plenty of Super League experience.”
Featherstone coach Andy Hay has been pleased with how 33-year-old Wood has settled since his capture was announced on Wednesday.
“He has fitted in really well,” he said. “He has a massive amount of respect from the group and I think he’s a really good signing.
“It is not just his playing ability. His record speaks for itself, but it is also what he can bring to the professionalism of the club and the playing group.
“We needed a tough pack leader and I think he is it. He definitely fits the bill.”
Given Wood has won the Challenge Cup twice, the League Leaders’ Shield and featured in two Grand Finals during his extensive career at Warrington, his calibre is certainly unquestioned and that ability will be crucial against a Trinity side that could field former Catalan prop Lopini Paea and French international Mickael Simon.
Featherstone were solid in an 18-0 defeat at Castleford a fortnight ago despite seeing a sickness bug hit their camp, something which has not yet fully eased.
Hay said: “I am looking for the same attitude and enthusiasm and hopefully we can fix our defence up a bit.
“Wakefield have got a lot of threats and they are putting a good side out, so we are expecting a big game.
“I’m looking at maybe us executing our plays a bit better in attack. That was the only down side of the game against Castleford.
“We have worked on it a bit and I think we will be more fluent.
“We’re looking to have a good run out and improve on the performance in the last game.”