Wakefield Wildcats head coach Richard Agar is delighted with preparations for 2013 and is eagerly anticipating the Heatshot Festive Challenge against Leeds Rhinos on Boxing Day.
The first pre-season fixture against the Super League Champions gets underway at 11.30am at Headingley Carnegie and offers a first chance for the Wildcats supporters to witness the foundations for the new campaign. Justin Poore, Reece Lyne and Bobbie Goulding are all expected to debut in the traditional fixture as Agar looks to field his strongest possible squad.
“We are really happy at where the boys are at in terms of the physical condition and some of the stuff we’ve done with the ball in hand I would certainly say we have taken on from where we have left off,” said Agar.
“There are some things that we’re trying to put in our game and some add-ons in there to try and find different ways and options and they have taken to it really good. The synergy between the boys is still very much there, we look very well choreographed when we have done ball work.
“Like every club at this time of the year we’ve been washed out for a week and we’ve been frozen off for a week as well so having to adapt on occasions is a pain but we know we’re not alone in having to encounter that.”
Next Wednesday’s game will be the first since the 42-20 defeat against the Rhinos on 15th September and the red, white and blue chief admits the build up to the festive fixture is different to a usual game week.
“We try and not to taper off too much despite it being a game week. We won’t be training the day before the game which is something we usually would but we’ll train two days before and make sure the guys have Christmas with their families and the boys are actually really looking forward to it.
“It’s not a pain for us, they are keen to have a game and will be a good opportunity for us to see where we are at and will probably highlight some things that we are going to need to work on.”
With a number of first team players recovering from injuries it means Kyle Trout will move into the front-row to play alongside Poore and Agar assesses the team news ahead of the short trip to Leeds.
“We are going to start with our strongest available team and we will name the bench a couple of days before. We have a couple of question marks at this moment in time and we are probably a little bit light on forwards. Kyle Amor is out, as is Ollie Wilkes who has a broken thumb, Frankie Mariano and Andy Raleigh are also noticeable absentees.
“All of our big men have bumps or niggles or recovering from pre-season operations so we are going to assess that but our starting team will be the strongest we can possibly put out.”
With a bumper crowd expected inside Headingley two strong sides will line up as Joel Moon and Mitch Achurch have been handed debuts by Rhinos boss Brian McDermott while six-time Grand Final winners Danny McGuire and Ryan Bailey will also feature. From a Trinity perspective Agar says his squad are itching to play the fixture.
“The lads are looking forward to it and if ten thousand people are going to turnout as a coach I owe it to them to put out our strongest possible team. I would love to get my full team out there but unfortunately the game has come around two or three weeks too early for the likes of Amor and Wilkes so we are having to sit them out.
“We are not going to take any risks and put them at danger at missing the start of the year. Having said that it is important to justify having these games by making sure it is worthwhile everybody turning up.
“We are going as strong as we possibly can, Justin Poore is a great example. His first taste of English rugby is going to be on Boxing Day at a very iconic venue at the reigning champions. I know they have some players out as well but still if you look at their team it is very, very strong.”
Agar is a veteran of the Boxing Day fixture having played and coached in the festive occasion and despite the switch to summer rugby he still sees it as an integral part of the rugby league calendar.
“The Boxing Day have always been part of the Boxing Day tradition in this country and people want to turn out and probably go for a beer, enjoy the rugby and it becomes part of their Christmas festivities and if we can play our part in that then great.
“They will be coming to watch the new signings, get the first look at the new kit and maybe see one or two new things the teams have been working on and I think everybody would recognise and accept that neither team will be firing on full cylinders. We still have a good five weeks to go before the start of the competition so there will be some rustiness in there.”
Wildcats supporters have until midday tomorrow (Friday) to by discounted ticket prices of £17 adults, £10 concessions and £5 juniors. All tickets will be taken off-sale at midday and returned to the Rhinos and tickets will then be available on the gate with adults paying £20, concessions £13 and juniors still £5.
Tickets can be purchased from the Rapid Solicitors Stadium Box Office, Ridings Centre or Trinity Walk stores.
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