“Never forget that anticipation is an important part of life. Work’s important, family’s important, but without excitement, you have nothing. You’re cheating yourself if you refuse to enjoy what’s coming.” Nicholas Sparks
If, like me and Mr Sparks, you’re a big fan of looking forward to things with Teflon-coated optimism, you’ll feel “blessed” that we have an off season which stretches over a third of the year.
So much time to mull over the net impact of departures and arrivals, to soak up the daily predictions of improvements in conditioning, attacking execution and forward power circulated by the HDM, to analyse the fixture list for pivotal sequences of games, and to wrestle with the critical questions:
Best kit – Home or Away?
Jordan Abdull – Loose forward or Stand-off?
Biggest sort – Watts or Taylor?
With material upgrades to the squad, photographs of players looking so buff I had to scrutinise them forensically for evidence of photoshopping, and another year of experience under Radford’s belt, the date that’s the equivalent of Christmas is finally (almost) here – our first pre season friendly.
The game itself, if it goes ahead, is without great consequence, and likely to involve players outside squad numbers 1-17 (although not Pritchard) vying for inclusion in the Derby friendly. But it’s what it represents that’s important – renewed weekend priorities, 48-hour dissections of the weekend performances and whining about how long it takes to get the matches up on the website (maybe they could take a leaf out of Dans book) – in short switching gears into a routine to carry us through to the autumn.
Since the last Round-Up, Frank Pritchard and family finally arrived safely in the UK despite late attempts to derail our deal and keep him in the NRL. It’s fair to say he’s over-delivered in media activity and was definitely the star attraction in the Membership Collection event the club held a week before Christmas.
Whilst the rest of the squad were handing out passes and membership packs, Frank was kept busy with queues of fans wanting photos and autographs from parents of newborn babies to pensioners.
The anticipation of his arrival following such a strong season at the Bulldogs in 2015 has been well documented, as has the return home of black and white Scott Taylor, voted Player of the Year in a difficult season at Salford by the club and supporters alike. The trio of Manu, Fonua and Tuimavave provide, amongst other attributes, experience, pace and versatility.
One signing that’s received precious little upbeat coverage however is that of Danny Washbrook. A work colleague of mine who along with his whole family are diehard Wakefield passholders has been a huge advocate of Washy’s contribution there for the past few years, citing him as the most consistent and reliable player in their squad, relentless in defence and a role model off the field.
It was interesting to read Scott Taylor highlight him as a total professional in off season preparation, and having only turned 30 in the autumn, with over 240 games to his name and the ability to play in the back row and spell Danny Houghton at hooker, I suspect this could be a pretty astute squad acquisition.
So here we are then. Christmas decorations put away, three pre season friendlies imminent and time to get the big-ass coat out of the wardrobe for a return to the terraces. If the reality’s measures up to the anticipation we could be in for a cracking 2016.