Stefan Ratchford wants Warrington to learn from last season’s disaster and repay the fans after being named the club’s new captain.
Ahead of his 12th season at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, the man head coach Daryl Powell calls “Mr Warrington” has spoken of his pride at being asked to lead the Wolves into a season that has a multitude of wrongs to right.
“I’m a yeller, a talker and a thinker,” the 34-year old tells The Sportsman.
- Tex Hoy sets derby target
“I’m always vocal and will let people know what I’m thinking, that won’t change whether I’m captain or not.
“After last season, there’s a lot of pressure on all of us to get off on the right foot.”
Warrington’s 2022 season was a shambles.
The usual anticipation that accompanies the expectation of Super League’s perennial bridesmaids finally having ‘their year’ was amplified with the arrival of much sought-after boss Powell.
What followed was a mess of a campaign with out-of-sorts and out-of-contract players unable to adapt to new gameplans, fans voicing their displeasure, and an all-too close brush with relegation that saw the club finish second bottom.
“What we dished up last year was unacceptable individually and performance-wise and way below the expectations we set as a club,” admits Ratchford, who will switch to centre this season and wear the number 4 jersey
“There was a lot of stuff that contributed to where the season went.
“A lot of boys were out of contract, 14 of us at one point. A lot of lads didn’t know if they were coming or going. We were under-performing and then going out and over-trying, which makes you mess up more. You feel the pressure of not playing well in a team that is losing, but thinking ‘I have to go out and impress other clubs if Warrington won’t keep me’.
“We just kept finding a way to lose.”
Ratchford heads up a new leadership group at Warrington, voted for by the players, and signed off by Powell, which includes England playmaker George Williams, Josh McGuire, Paul Vaughan and Peter Mata’utia - “outstanding leaders” according to Ratchford.
Crucially Warrington have had a full 12 months under Powell, who has finally been able to shape the kind of squad he wants, with the right kind of mentality.
And Ratchford has revealed he himself had to speak to angry supporters last year when the defeats were piling up, and the head coach’s position was already being called into question.
“It’s really difficult in sport, because when you are winning you are the best team in the world, but when you lose a few it’s ‘sack them all and the coach’.
“I had conversations with fans last year telling us to sack the coach. I would say ‘you wanted the last coach sacked who won the Challenge Cup and reached the Grand Final, we’ve brought someone else in and you want to sack him too?
"Do we just keep bringing people in and sacking them?
“Internally I feel Powelly has dealt with it the best he could and we all tried to support him.
“We have learned a lot of lessons from where we went wrong last year and have worked hard to put things right. We are 12 months under Powelly now and things feel more settled.
“The expectation is always high and Daryl coming in doubled it.
“The last 12 seasons I’ve been at Warrington, every pre-season we sign players and people expect a Grand Final. The external pressure is always there and so it should be.
“But we will go about things our own way.”