Wildcats boosted by return of Tim Smith


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The Independent Online

Wakefield Trinity hope that their player of the year last season, Tim Smith, will redirect their poor start to this campaign today.

The Wildcats were the surprise side of last year, when, with the Australian half-back at the helm, they defied the odds and reached the Super League play-offs.

A pre-season ankle injury kept Smith out of the opening game at Bradford last week, a crushing 40-6 defeat that Wakefield’s coach, Richard Agar, called the most disappointing performance of his time in charge at  Belle Vue.

Wakefield will also have the consistent forward Andy Raleigh available for his first match of the season against Hull KR today, after recovering from injury.

Rovers have also had their early-season half-back problems, with their new Australian signing, Travis Burns, still having three matches of a suspension to serve. The Robins’ coach, Craig Sandercock, used Lincoln Withers, normally a hooker,  at half-back in last week’s 32-24 loss to the Catalan Dragons. For this match, he has hinted that he might switch the 24-year-old Craig Hall from full-back to the stand-off role.

Sandercock was also bitterly disappointed by his side’s opening day. “We’ve looked at areas we need to improve and we will improve,” he said.

For today’s other match, Salford City Reds will have their own translator for the trip to play the Catalans in Perpignan. The 18-year-old French half-back Theo Fages has impressed in pre-season and in the opening game against Wigan last weekend, and is expected to keep his place in the starting line-up.

At the other end of the age scale, Steve Menzies, 40 this April, opened his account for 2013 with two tries for the Dragons against Hull KR last week.

The Catalans coach, Laurent Frayssinous,  is still without his first choice scrum-half, Scott Dureau, as he recuperates from an eye operation.

Tomorrow, Gareth Hock is in line to make his debut for Widnes, on loan from Wigan, against St Helens – a local derby that has acquired extra significance with Widnes’s opening-day victory in London and Saints’ heavy defeat at the hands of Huddersfield.

Leeds Rhinos, who are at Castleford, had hoped to loan their prop forward, Kylie Leuluai (above), to Hunslet under the dual registration system while he works towards  full fitness.

The UK Borders Agency, however, has ruled that the player’s visa does not allow him to switch clubs.

The Oldham centre, David Cookson, has been suspended for six months after testing positive for a banned stimulant.