Super League pre-season news: Kristian Woolf, Brian McDermott, warm-up matches and more | Rugby League News

Kristian Woolf is getting stuck in at St Helens after taking over as head coach

Kristian Woolf is getting stuck in at St Helens after taking over as head coach

The 2020 Super League season is rapidly approaching and we take a look at who has been saying what as the build-up to the campaign continues.

New St Helens head coach Kristian Woolf has been sharing his thoughts on the defending champions’ build-up, while Brian McDermott has laid bare the challenges faced by Toronto Wolfpack following promotion from the Championship.

There is news from the latest pre-season warm-up matches as well, along with a look at some notable quotes…

Woolf sees Saints stepping up

Kristian Woolf is leaving no stone unturned during pre-season with St Helens

Kristian Woolf is leaving no stone unturned during pre-season with St Helens

He has a tough task in trying to better what St Helens achieved last season in Super League, but that has not stopped new head coach Kristian Woolf from attempting to drive standards even higher ahead of the 2020 campaign.

Woolf has been impressed with what has seen from the squad of the defending champions, who are heading to Tenerife for a warm-weather training camp before their only pre-season game against London Broncos in Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook’s testimonial on January 19.

However, the 44-year-old former Tonga boss – who has taken over the reins from fellow Australian Justin Holbrook – is well-aware there is more hard work to come before the season kicks off with a rematch of last year’s Grand Final against Salford Red Devils on January 31.

“As a coach, I’m not supposed to be too happy with things and there are plenty of things we need to keep working hard at and keep improving,” Woolf told Saints TV.

“At the same time, there are a lot of positives and thing with the group is they’ve got a really strong work ethic and honesty about them.

“That was obvious straight away and obvious after Christmas that blokes have looked after themselves, and are here and ready to go for the season.”

Woolf is set to be without James Roby for the clash with Salford after the influential hooker underwent surgery on his groin just before Christmas.

However, winger Tommy Makinson and back row Morgan Knowles are progressing well in their rehabilitation after off-season shoulder surgery.

McDermott’s squad depth caution

Toronto Wolfpack head coach Brian McDermott

Toronto Wolfpack head coach Brian McDermott

Brian McDermott has pulled no punches when speaking about the challenges which await Toronto Wolfpack in their maiden Super League campaign.

The Canadian side are currently preparing for the 2020 season at their UK training base in Manchester, having finally earned their place in the top flight with victory over Featherstone Rovers in last year’s Million Pound Game.

Grand Final and Challenge Cup winner Brad Singleton and hooker James Cunningham have joined from Leeds Rhinos and London Broncos respectively as well, but the Wolfpack are now close to the salary cap limit and McDermott knows his squad could be stretched this season.

“Everybody is aware that the challenge this year is going to be significant,” McDermott said. “We’re near the end of the cap. We don’t have much cap space to buy any more, which is a real issue.

“My squad is very exposed. If we get injuries, if we get two or three players injured on a 23-man squad, we start to look really skinny.”

Toronto’s only scheduled pre-season game is on January 19 away to Castleford Tigers – the team they face on the opening weekend of the 2020 Super League season as part of a double-header at Headingley.

Trialists catch Radford’s eye

Hull FC opened their pre-season programme with an 18-10 defeat away to Championship side Halifax on Sunday, yet head coach Lee Radford took solace from the performance of two trialists.

Lee Radford was happy with how Hull FC's trialists performed against Halifax

Lee Radford was happy with how Hull FC’s trialists performed against Halifax

Royal Navy rugby union player Eldon Myers and Tom Goulding both made their bow for the Black and Whites in the match, which saw Radford field a mix of first-team players and up-and-coming talent.

Myers started at centre and Goulding, who linked up with Hull in recent weeks, came off the interchange bench in the closing stages and Radford was pleased with what he saw.

“With Eldon I thought there was a couple of glimpses of his skill and he’s really athletic, he’s got some skill,” Radford told Hull Live.

“Tommy came on and made a couple of tough carries which was required at that time. I’m pleased for the pair of them.”

Hull FC host London Broncos in their next warm-up match, while cross-city rivals Hull Kingston Rovers get their pre-season campaign underway on Sunday when they head to Wakefield Trinity.

Rovers have been made favourites for relegation from Super League this year after narrowly staying up in 2019, but that suits forward Mose Masoe just fine.

“A lot of people are writing us off and I love it,” Masoe told Hull Live. “It’s a challenge and the area we’re from, Hull is tough and battlers.

“That’s the kind of team we want to come across as. We want to work hard and keep ourselves up there in Super League.”

Elsewhere, Salford retained the Agecroft Cup with a 52-4 victory at home to Swinton Lions in their first warm-up match. Kris Welham and Niall Evalds led the way with two tries apiece for the hosts.

Pre-season in their own words

“I got to know him pretty well when I played with his son (for Sydney Roosters U20). I’d always see him down Coogee in Australia drinking coffee with no shirt on and walking round the streets saying he was ‘Adrian Lam who played for the Roosters’!”

New signing Jackson Hastings gives an insight into his prior relationship with Adrian Lam and the Wigan Warriors head coach’s son Lachlan.

“He’s come back in great shape. The guy’s a training freak, anyway, a gym freak. You can’t keep him out of the gym. He looks good.”

Sonny Bill Williams has made an immediate impression on Brian McDermott after arriving for pre-season training with Toronto Wolfpack.

“I’ve four years left and it only takes one good cup run to end that duck. It will be more when I retire and it’s all done and dusted and I can’t achieve anything else. That’s when it will really bother me, but it’s in the back of my mind already.”

Huddersfield Giants winger Jermaine McGillvary, who has his testimonial match against Halifax this Sunday, is determined to win one of rugby league’s major prizes before he retires.

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