Rugby League: Kelly's success is wholly Trinity

Dave Hadfield says Super League has had a welcome wake-up call
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IT IS JUST about time, Andy Kelly feels, that the rugby league world stopped reacting with shock, horror and disbelief to every new Wakefield Trinity success.

Most observers might have expected them, after playing every other side once, not to have had a single win. In fact, they have five - one more than Kelly's own advance estimate - and the novelty is wearing off. "I would have thought one or two sides would approach us with some caution," he said. So they should, especially after last week when Wakefield came from 22-6 down to win at Warrington. That, and their victory over St Helens at Barnsley, are not freak achievements; they are the mark of a team to be taken seriously.

In retrospect, Trinity gave early notice of that when they lost narrowly to Castleford on the opening day - the fixture that is repeated in reverse today. That was a good effort for a team hurriedly put together on a shoestring, but it has only got better since. "Everyone had written us off from the start," said Adrian Brunker, whose form in the centres has been one of the bonuses for Trinity this year. "We'd only got together as a squad at the end of January. They brought in some pretty good players but it's only now that we're starting to gel."

Those pretty good players include Brunker himself, who played State of Origin for Queensland in the early 90s, as well as other antipodeans in Tony Kemp, Willie Poching and Shane Kenward.

One of the most impressive things about Trinity's recent results is that they have been achieved without Kemp and Poching, although Kemp returned last week and Poching, whose handling skills at loose forward can unlock any defence, may do so today.

The other strands in Wakefield's success have been the emergence of young players like the March twins, David and Paul, and the Indian summer being enjoyed by the likes of Andy Fisher, Gary Price and Vince Fawcett.

All of which suggests that Kelly has the invaluable knack of getting the best out of all categories of players: the incomers, the young hopefuls and the old stagers. "The key thing is that everyone likes him and wants to do well for him," said Brunker. A simple observation, but one that sums up why coaches prosper or fail.

One of the things that has satisfied Kelly the most is that Trinity have won three away games in a row. "Now we really need the crowd to get behind us at home," he said. "The result against Castleford could be entirely different, but it's a chance for us to see how much progress we've made. I'm not surprised by where we are, but I probably wouldn't have backed us to win five matches. A ratio of one win in three was what I was looking for."

But, even as Wakefield contemplate their achievement and the consequent unlikelihood of relegation, the question of finance raises its tousled head. Clubs outside Super League - who have, in effect, funded Wakefield's heroics this year - have threatened to cut off the cash next season. It is something Kelly and his players are trying to put out of their minds.

"We are used to negative forecasts for the club," Kelly said. "That is all less to do with football and more to do with the politics of the game." And Wakefield will continue to concentrate on counfounding gloomy predictions on the field.