Wildcats boss Richard Agar took plenty from his sides final pre-season friendly at Doncaster as they look ahead to the start of Super League.
With the wintery weather throwing training schedules out of the window since the turn of the year, the afternoon was as much about getting valuable time out on the pitch in preparation for the trip to face Bradford Bulls next week.
Wakefield ran out 44-4 winners with most of the damage done in the first half were an efficient performance found the Wildcats understandably too quick and strong for a side preparing for a season in the Championship having won promotion at the end of last year.
But for Agar and his coaching staff, the game represented an opportunity to get much needed match fitness into his players.
“It served a purpose for us,” declared Agar after the game.
“I wasn’t massively bothered about any score. We’ve had so little time on the field apart from our time away in Portugal and the weather’s hampered us again this week. We’ve had forwards coming back from injuries and post-season operations so we thought it would be a great opportunity to have a run-out on a full sized rugby field, have some contact and get some genuine game fitness into us.
“There were one or two exceptions but we tried to keep everybody at forty minutes or under for game time and we used it effectively as a training exercise. We’ll train tomorrow rather than do our usual recovery. We know we’re in a good enough nick to get out on the training field tomorrow.
“We wanted to have a look at some improvements to some of the things we did and didn’t do last week.
“First half our performance was what we were looking for. We weren’t looking for anything flash, we just wanted to pay a lot of attention to detail, for people to be in the right spots at the right time and basically get their jobs done effectively. We thought we did that and the attitude was really good.
“In the second half it wasn’t going to be as slick as the first half and we didn’t expect it to be. But we can take some review out of this, take it to our halves and Bobbie in particular because it’ll be a really good game for him to look at from his point of view.”
The game was a first appearance in pre-season for Kyle Amor, the Cumbrian throwing his hat into the ring to make the 17 next week at the Provident Stadium.
Agar says the game didn’t resolve his team selection for that game but was pleased with the contribution of Amor as well as the likes of Chris Annakin and Matty Wildie.
“I don’t think it’s probably solved everything but nor were we hoping or expecting it to either. But certainly Kyle Amor coming back and getting through a real positive stint, Oliver Wilkes getting plenty of game time under his belt and I thought Matty Wildie did a really effective job for us and he’s certainly thrown himself into contention should Timmy or Kyle not come through for the weekend.
“Chris Annakin has had a really good pre-season and has probably been hampered a little bit by a two game suspension. We feel he has come on leaps and bounds this off season and we’d have liked to have seen him play a little more time in our first grade team with everyone around him. I think that’s the important thing, having a lot more good players around you makes it more of a test to fit in and adapt to what we’re doing at this level.
“One thing he does do is carry the ball as hard as he can and he’s a powerful, explosive type of forward and we’ve been super impressed with his attitude and the way he’s worked on the physical aspects of his game. He really impressed us today.”
With the Wildcats slightly depleted on numbers, it gave the chance for Brad Day, Tom Rogers and Mat Cook from the Wildcats under 19’s to experience being amongst the first team squad, with Agar hoping they can take the things they’ve learnt back to the Academy setup.
“It’s a terrific experience for those guys to be in and around a first team squad and see how they prepare plus playing in a genuine game rather than age group rugby. Those kids are young, inexperienced and full of potential. They’re a little bit off what we need them to be for first graders yet but we know Stu (Dickens) and Ryan (Hudson) will do a good job with them.
“Hopefully they can take back some of their experiences and pass them through the under 19’s squad as well as seeing that there’s a pathway there if they get the job done at that level.”
Isaac John was the only injury casualty of the eighty minutes, dislocating a finger late on. However, Agar reported encouraging news on Tim Smith and Kyle Wood.
“Timmy has improved massively this week. The club have invested in a piece of equipment that will hopefully speed up the recovery process and Woody is getting better by the day. I’d probably say Tim is closer than Woody at this stage and he’ll be back running again tomorrow.
“Round one may come a bit too soon for him but we’ll give him every chance he possibly needs to prove his fitness. But we’ve probably got more players to pick from now than at any other time of pre-season though which is good.”
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