Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
5 days ago
Wakefield, the surprise package of Super League IX, face another crucial test of their resurgence when Wigan visit Belle Vue on Saturday.
The Wildcats, who reached the play-offs for the first time last year, began the new season with a stunning 28-16 win over Bradford last Sunday - their first win at Odsal for 16 years - to achieve a club best of six successive wins in Super League.
To make it a magnificent seven, they must break more ground by beating Wigan for the first time in the summer era and Jamie Rooney, 16-point hero of their Odsal triumph, expects them to do just that.
?We were all confident we could go to Bradford and win,? he said. ?It was a shock to many people but not to the players.
?Now we need to back it up against Wigan. If we don?t put in a good performance this week, that Bradford result is going to be a waste.
?The fact that we have never beaten Wigan has been mentioned in training. We want to put that right this week.?
The Wildcats were desperately close to breaking their duck against Wigan in the elimination semi-final last season when they led 14-0 and had a try disallowed before eventually going down 18-14 at the JJB Stadium.
Rooney, forced to watch that match from the stand after being sidelined through injury, said: "We played really well that day.
?We got off to a flying start but Wigan showed how good they are to come back and pipped us right at the end.
?We were a bit unlucky but that?s the way it goes. We didn?t take our chances. Hopefully, we?ve learnt from that.?
Wakefield already appeared to have learned to play without Gareth Ellis, their inspirational skipper who joined Leeds in the close season.
His replacement, former Wigan playmaker Julian O?Neill, made a useful debut at Bradford while the Wildcats must feel they have a new player in Rooney, who appeared in only 11 of their 28 League matches in 2004 because of injury.
?I played the first few games and then broke my ankle and was out for three months,? he recalled.
?I then came back and did my knee ligaments and was out for the rest of the season. I just hope I can stay injury-free now.?
Rooney, who scored a club record 36 points in Trinity?s Challenge Cup win over Chorley 12 months ago, quickly made up for lost time with an impressive performance at Odsal.
He scored the game?s first try, kicked five out of seven goals and landed two important drop goals to stake an early claim for a place in the Tri-Nations squad in front of the watching Great Britain coach Brian Noble.
?I hadn?t played any competitive football for nearly three months so it was nice to get a few points but the performance was down to our forwards,? said the modest Rooney.
?I have never seen a Bradford pack dominated like that.
?But one of my goals is to play for my country and I?ll give it my best shot this year.?
Wigan, who go into the game with more injury problems, have called up youngsters Liam Colbon and Bryn Hargreaves, who have made just two starts in Super League between them.
Colbon, a 20-year-old winger, and 19-year-old prop Hargreaves get their chances because of injury to Brett Dallas and Danny Sculthorpe.
Dallas, an ever-present in 2004, has joined fellow winger Brian Carney on the sidelines with an ankle injury, while Sculthorpe has a hamstring strain, which leaves new signing Jerry Seuseu as the Warriors? only experienced prop.
?Brett?s ankle is swollen since and, although we don?t think it?s too serious, we won?t risk him, especially if we?re going to come up against heavy conditions again,? said Wigan coach Denis Betts. ?Liam Colbon is raring to go.?
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats v Wigan Warriors, Belle Vue, Saturday 19th February 2005
Wakefield 18-man squad: Halpenny, Demetriou, Tadulala, Rooney, Jeffries, Griffin, March, Korkidas, Solomona, J. Field, Obst , Wrench, Snitch, Elima, King, M. Field, O?Neill, Feather.
Wigan 18-man squad: Radlinski, Aspinwall, Vaealiki, Wild, Orr, Brown, Moran, Seu Seu, Newton, Godwin, Hock, Tickle, O?Loughlin, Hansen, Beswick, Allen, Colbon, Hargreaves.