Following on from the gruelling Easter weekend of rugby league, the smile on Daryl Clark’s face says everything about what it can do for a team. “It’s great when you get four points,” he explained, further adding that “we’ve come through it well enough with injuries.” Indeed, only Ben Murdoch-Masila, following a knee injury against Castleford, is now facing a spell on the sidelines.
Speaking of the appalling conditions Easter Monday’s game was played in, Clark admitted that the pitch itself was the worst he’d ever played on. “The rain we played in at Catalans was just as bad and I’ve played in the snow but the pitch at Cas was basically flooded,” the 2014 Man of Steel explained. That win over Castleford resulted in the Wolves being one of only three Super League teams to pick up two wins over the Easter Weekend and Clark believes that Wire’s season has now really got going. Agreeing that the start the team had was inconsistent, Clark suggested that the absence of RLWC stars meant preparations were tricky, conceding that “our attacking work had to be done without players in key positions” as the likes of Kevin Brown and Stefan Ratchford were away with Wayne Bennett’s England team.
Speaking about Clark’s omission from the squad, he explained that he didn’t feel he would be going. “We all saw James Roby back to his best and Josh Hodgson is strong. I don’t think I was playing my best rugby so it wasn’t a surprise,” he admitted. Clark is, however, back in the international fold following his inclusion in the Elite Performance Squad named recently by Bennett with the team’s first match of the season set to be the Denver test. Understandably keen for the match to go ahead from a personal point of view, Clark articulated his belief that it is vital for the growth of the game; “if we are to grow the game then America seems to be the best place,” he explained.
Following his move from hometown club Castleford before the start of the 2015 season, Clark is closing in on 100 appearances for Warrington and 200 career games. His last one saw him cross the line against his old teammates and, when asked whether that was a strange feeling, he sheepishly laughed and admitted that “I’ve always tended to do well against them!” That win saw the Wolves climb up to third in the Super League table, albeit having played more games than anybody else, and it is clearly shaping up to be a better season than last term.
The off-season saw Warrington bring in big players – both in terms of reputation and stature – in Ben Murdoch-Masila, Sitaleki Akauola, Tyrone Roberts, Bryson Goodwin and Mitch Brown with Josh Charnley joining more recently. Steve Price also arrived as a new head coach after an assistant role with Cronulla Sharks. Speaking of the effect the Australian has had, Clark explained that “sometimes you just need a new voice. Tony [Smith] had been there for a long time, it loses it’s effect,” further explaining that Price is the best defensive coach he has played under. When asked about the best attacking coach he has had, that was an equally confident answer: “Daryl Powell.”
It was an incredible campaign for Castleford last season but Clark admitted that he couldn’t ever have predicted how good they would be. He played under Powell for a season and a half, winning the Man of Steel award in 2014 while also playing the part of losing finalists in the Challenge Cup, the Tigers’ first appearance in the event. “I could see that they were going to be superb attacking but I’d be lying if I said I thought they would dominate in the way they did last season.”
Focussing on this season, Clark explained that Price had offered players the chance of a new start. “He told us to forget what had gone before and that we should wipe the slate clean. We are not setting goals but we are hoping for the top four and we are going to compete,” he revealed.
So far, they certainly have competed. Warrington will be keen to improve on last season’s ninth place finish and the early indications are that they will certainly do that.