22 Dec 2021

All systems go for Poching

Wakefield Trinity are fast approaching a return to action as they prepare to face Leeds Rhinos in a Boxing Day clash at Headingley Stadium.

The preseason fixture is an opportunity for both clubs to experiment with new and existing combinations, as well as helping their players get back to match fitness ahead of another tough Betfred Super League campaign.

Willie Poching – who was handed the reins full time at Trinity after a hugely successful spell as interim coach during the back end of the 2021 season – will also use this match to give his younger, less experienced squad players the chance to test themselves against Super League opposition.

“I’ve got a team in mind. There’s going to be a sprinkle of senior, experienced blokes but a lot of young fellas that I’m excited to have a look at and give them the opportunity to experience an environment like Headingley in front of a crowd like that,” Poching, who spent five seasons at the Rhinos as a player, explained.

“For a lot of those kids, it’ll be their first occasion in an arena as such so I’m really excited to see how they handle that, and I know they’re excited to be back playing again.

“It gives them a taste of what life at Super League levels going to be like. There’s a couple of kids there that have come through the academy system and not been exposed to some of those pressures, and they’re excited to see what they’re made of.”

It will be an invaluable test for Trinity’s youngsters - players that Poching may well need to lean on during the 2022 campaign.

Given the arduous nature of the sport, Poching’s squad depth will inevitably be stretched at times. So exposing his young players to these environments is vital in ensuring they can step up when they're called upon in 2022. 

Poching won 5 of his 7 games in charge as interim head coach in 2021.

“Squad depths have been tested in the last couple of seasons and they always will be. When you look at how tough the game has become – the rigours of week in week out football takes its toll on your squad as a whole.

“At some point some of these young fellas are going to be thrown into the fire and we’ve got to try and expose them to as many of those experiences to be ready for when that call up comes during the season. The belief they’ll have to be able to handle that will only grow from those experiences like on Boxing Day.”

Trinity's Boxing Day clash could also see Poching hand club debuts to some of his off-season arrivals. The new signings have all settled seamlessly into life at Wakefield as Poching continues to piece his squad together ready for Round One.  

“I’ve been really happy with how they’ve all gelled. The spirit of the group is really high at the moment – they get on really well socially and they’re pushing each other and challenging each other professionally. They’re all wanting the best out of each other.

“[The new signings] have added their little bits to the group. They’ve all brought a new flavour and all brought their bits to our team and to our benefit - so I’m really excited about what we have ahead of us.”

Liam Hood - who arrived to Trinity from relegated Leigh Centurions - is arguably the club’s most important signing for 2022. After both Kyle Wood and Josh Wood left the club during the off season, Hood is Wakefield’s only recognised hooker.

And Poching has been hugely impressed with the former Leigh man and is adamant that Hood will have the desired impact on his side.

"Liam Hood’s been fantastic – he’s been a real gem and a real strong leader. He’s brought a different dynamic and he’s a different type of player [to the previous hookers].

“We need him out there as much as we can - he understands that and he wants to be out there as much as he can. He’s been around for a little while now and I had the pleasure of coaching him as a young fella at Leeds when he first came through.

“Just seeing the maturity that he has on the field now and how he’s grown as a player to what he is today – he’s another one that we’ll benefit from having him in our side.”

Liam Hood joins Wakefield Trinity from Leigh Centurions.

Ultimately, Poching’s success will rely on the confidence he can instil within his squad. And although that will remain a working progress throughout the year, he strongly believes the team are on the right track.

“The guys got a lot of belief in each other again [at the end of last season]. There was some tough times last season for all of us. What they want to do is win, they want to play with a smile on their face and they want to be excited about coming to work. Hopefully we’ve given them that environment this preseason.

“You’ve got to bring them together as a group, they’ve got to gel and be willing to do what’s necessary on the field. You’ve got to be hungry and motivated to do it for your mate next to you. That’s what our games about.

“If me and my staff are able to give them that environment and allow them to flourish individually and collectively then hopefully, you’ll see some of those successes out on the field.”