Stefan Ratchford: Testimonial man
2022 will see plenty of change at Warrington Wolves. Head coach Daryl Powell takes over from his predecessor Steve Price, bringing with him new coaching staff, players, philosophies and fresh ideas to reinvigorate the Warrington club.
And for Stef Ratchford – a player who is readying for his eleventh season and testimonial year at the club – the change is exciting.
Ratchford knows the Warrington club better than most – he arrived at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in 2012 and has been a mainstay in the side ever since. Now, as he reaches the twilight of a hugely successful playing career, he is preparing to take on a new challenge at the Wolves as the Daryl Powell era begins.
“We’re looking good. Obviously, we lost a few players at the end of last year but the club has signed well. We’ve signed lads with a lot of Super League experience and also a couple of the younger lads like James Harrison who have come up [from Featherstone].
“The squads got a nice blend of experience and a bit of youth. All the lads are really enjoying training– there’s a few players and staff that have come in with different philosophies and different ideas, so the lads are really enjoying it at the moment.”
🥁 Announcing our first fixture of 2022!
Over to you, @ratch06.... pic.twitter.com/mrff9KNDtr
— Warrington Wolves (@WarringtonRLFC) December 1, 2021
Despite the fresh ideas and new philosophies, it’s unlikely there will be wholesale changes at Warrington following Powell’s arrival – with the new head coach focusing on more of the intimate details and fine-tuning certain aspects of the Wolves’ game.
And Ratchford is adamant that Powell's successes at Castleford can be emulated at the Wolves in 2022.
"If you look at most teams, everyone has a similar platform that they play to – so it’s just little tweaks within those structures.
“If you look at the way Cas have performed over the last few years whilst Powelly’s [Daryl Powell] been there he’s done an incredible job with them – taking them from the lower end of the league to Challenge Cup Finals, Grand Finals and winning the League Leaders – he’s done a great job there.
“So, the philosophies he has are proven to work and hopefully we can implement them just as well as Cas did.
“It’s always interesting when a new coach comes in because you can never know where you stand or what their thoughts are on you, but Powelly and all his staff have come in and really bought into the club and the community – they’ve all been brilliant from day one and we’re only going to grow and get stronger.
“He’s come in and been brilliant with all the lads. Different lads might not have been playing or be in or out of favour with certain coaches, but Powelly’s come in and it’s a clean slate for everyone, so everyone’s got the best chance of being selected in the team for next year which is what you want as a squad. You want a fair crack from the coaches and he’s certainly doing that.”
🎅 The Decider! @ratch06 🆚 @johnbateman1
Who's got the best gift wrapping skills? 🤔🎁 pic.twitter.com/9BGolLhWlK
— Warrington Wolves (@WarringtonRLFC) December 19, 2021
A stalwart of the Warrington side, Ratchford will undoubtedly be a key member of Daryl Powell’s team in 2022. The full-back offers invaluable experience, versatility and leadership both on and off the field - and Ratchford admits that he makes a conscious effort to offer his guidance to younger members of the squad – something that has developed naturally as he’s matured.
“I certainly try to be [a leader]. The older you get, the more experience that comes with that - and the younger lads do look up to you. I’ve done so many preseasons and played plenty of games so it’s good for the younger lads to lean on you and get some help if they need it.
“But, also to see the way that you use your voice and hear the way you speak with coaches and other senior players. So I think it’s good that there’s a few of us who have been around for a while now and the young lads can pick up a lot from it.”
Those young players will strive to reach the heights Ratchford has climbed to during a hugely successful career. His time at Warrington has been littered with lasting memories that he will be desperate to add to in 2022 and beyond.
“First of all, the move to Warrington and my debut for the club was a big thing. One of the crazy things is actually been here ten years and having that longevity for ten years. You look back at some of the bits and we’ve been fortunate to win a couple of Challenge Cups, we’ve won the League Leaders and been Man of the Match in a Grand Final – there’s been a few.
“But I can’t look any further than the first year that I came – I’d never played in a play-off game apart from in the Championship and I don’t think I’d ever been past the quarter final of the Challenge Cup - so to come and make my debut at Warrington at the beginning of 2012 and then in August lifting the Challenge Cup at Wembley – that was a pretty special year.”
Warrington take on Wigan Warriors in Ratchford’s testimonial preseason match on Saturday 29 January at the Halliwell Jones Stadium. You can support Stef and watch this game ahead of the Wolves 2022 campaign by purchasing tickets here.