Written by Callum Walker
Opinion: Having a reputation as big-spenders has plagued Warrington in recent seasons
The likes of Chris Sandow, Tyrone Roberts, Blake Austin and Gareth Widdop have all passed through the club’s books with not much success. A Challenge Cup triumph in 2019 was the first trophy the Wolves had won since 2012, despite being in the Super League Grand Finals in 2012, 2013, 2016 and 2018 as well as the Challenge Cup Finals of 2016 and 2018.
The Wolves regularly perform well in the league; indeed, the only year in the decade just gone that they didn’t qualify for the play-offs was in 2017 – when they faced the ignominy of the Middle 8s having finished ninth at the end of the regular season.
But, whilst the policy of buying stars has helped establish Warrington as a top-four side, there has just always been something missing. The jovial call of “it’s always their year” in reference to the Warrington faithful’s adamant beliefs that they will finally win the Grand Final are tongue-in-cheek, but it does represent the struggle that the Cheshire club has had to triumph in that showpiece event.
That might well be about to change; those sides that have won the Grand Final since its creation have one key similarity – a plethora of youth dotted around the field. St Helens’ Old Trafford-winning team from 2019 featured nine stars that had come through their academy: Tommy Makinson, Mark Percival, Regan Grace, Jonny Lomax, James Roby, Luke Thompson, Morgan Knowles, Jack Ashworth and Aaron Smith.
It is a formula that works. So, moving on to Warrington’s midweek game against Salford and it was always going to be a changed team with one eye on the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup. Head coach Steve Price brought in a raft of youth players, including Nathan Roebuck, Riley Dean and Josh Thewlis who all crossed the whitewash.
Round 14 is in the books 💪
— Betfred Super League (@SuperLeague) October 2, 2020
Roebuck slotted in on the wing seamlessly whilst Dean controlled much of the game at halfback with Thewlis performing expertly at the back. Eribe Doro looked powerful and offloaded well as Connor Wrench, Ellis Robson and Ellis Longstaff showed some nice touches.
This youthful side fought hammer and tong with Salford all the way as only a Krisnan Inu penalty goal separated the two sides at the end of the game. Though the Red Devils were not, by any means, at full strength, it was a good indication that Warrington have some incredibly talented youngsters coming through.
Mike Cooper, Toby King, Ben Currie, Dec Patton and Joe Philbin have all progressed from academy to first-team, but that is fairly dismal considering the resources at the club. Simon Moran continues to back his coaches with spending money, but investment aimed at the future stars seems to be reaping the rewards.
It is this area that the Wolves should concentrate on if they are to have the repeated successes of St Helens and Wigan and the Leeds of yesteryear. After all, the talent is clearly there to be tapped into.