Avoiding The Unthinkable: Unpredictable Wire A Danger With Burgess Poised

The Sportsman spoke to Warrington Wolves captain Stefan Ratchford
11:31, 29 Sep 2023

“I’ve never known so much to happen in one season, completely bizarre.”

Warrington captain Stefan Ratchford believes his side have emerged stronger from another extraordinary season, and has backed the Wolves to knock champions St Helens out of the Betfred Super League playoffs.

Warrington head to Saints this weekend with few backing them to win. Saints have strengthened as the season has progressed, and are now easing through the gears in the first season as head coach for club legend Paul Wellens. 

The Wolves have gone the other way, topping the table after a lightning start, sacking head coach Daryl Powell following an alarming slump, and already rebuilding ahead of the arrival of their new boss, rugby league super star Sam Burgess. 
They scraped into the playoffs, clinching sixth spot on the last night of the regular season.

“We went from the best start in the club’s history, eight from eight and absolutely flying, to a few mixed performances, to the worst Super League run in the club’s history of seven losses in a row,” Ratchford tells The Sportsman.

“But last six weeks the performances have really improved with some really good wins, and to miss out on the playoffs would have been absolutely unthinkable. 

“To miss it two years in a row would have been an absolute disaster. We had set out at the start of the year to be in the playoffs and ideally further up the table. Playoffs was the goal and we have somehow managed to make it.”

Veteran Ratchford has been through it all with Warrington, a succession of coaching changes, highs, lows, Challenge Cup triumphs, but never a Grand Final win. He seems storm-proofed from the setbacks, shrugging off the persistent fun-poking that rival fans love to direct at the big-spending, under-achieving club.

“After eight games we were the best team in the world and the fans absolutely loved us,” Ratchford recalls of a dream start to the season that had elevated last season’s much-maligned head coach Powell to a local hero.


“Then we started to hear frustration and then to go on that awful run really peaked the fans’ anger - they weren’t happy at all. 

“It would have been easy after all those losses and losing our coach just to put the cue in the rack and write the year off. But we spoke about it and realised we still had a chance and managed to show some resilience and are excited for the playoffs now.”

Warrington are big underdogs at St Helens, with the defending champions having finished level on points with Catalans Dragons and table-topping rivals Wigan.

But with incoming head coach Sam Burgess already in regular contact from Australia with the team and interim boss Gary Chambers, Ratchford says you will write Warrington off at your peril.

“We could absolutely be a danger in the playoffs. The way we played against Saints the game before last, but for a couple of dubious decisions we end up winning that game.

“We know we are capable of competing with them, and if we get our performance right we can beat Saints this weekend. 

“Sam is really excited and I’ve spoken to him a few times over the last six weeks.

“He can’t wait but it is difficult at the moment given he is on the other side of the world and not the coach yet. I’ve had a couple of chats with Sam, not on gameplan, more on how the lads are feeling for the playoffs and suggesting what we should focus on in certain games. 

“Gaz (Chambers) gets phone calls at daft o’clock but largely Sam is respectful enough to leave us to it. He just wants to get a gauge of where we are at when he takes over.

“Sam was an unbelievable player who I loved playing with and I’m really excited to have him as coach. It will be the first time in my career that I am older than a coach.

“Next year is next year and our job is this year and we have a job to do towards achieving our goals.”

Warrington’s trip to Saints is live on Channel 4 on Saturday lunchtime with Hull KR hosting Betfred Challenge Cup winners Leigh Leopards in Friday night’s first eliminator. 

The top two Wigan and Catalans have the luxury of a week off and will face the two eliminator winners in next weekend’s playoff semi-finals.

warrington to beat st helens: 16/5*

*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change

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