WARRINGTON Wolves will use their pre-season friendlies to help them decide which junior first-team members will head to partner club Swinton Lions next season.
Wolves’ first-team assistant coach Richard Marshall plans to use the club’s traditional Boxing Day fixture against Widnes and Ben Westwood’s Testimonial match to make the final call as to which young players will head out on dual registration with the Championship club, and which will remain at Wolves to scrap it out for a Super League place.
Marshall and fellow first-team coach Willie Poching have this week signed 12-month contract extensions keeping them on Tony Smith’s staff until November 2013, while the club have also announced the re-signing of player welfare manager Karl Fitzpatrick on a two-year deal and the appointment of Ben Stirling as the new head physiotherapist.
“Our best over-age junior players will likely go to Swinton, but we have not decided which will head over there until we have seen them play in the friendly matches we have booked for over the festive period,” said Marshall, who last year was also head coach of Wolves’ under 20s Valvoline Cup Grand Final winning side.
“Some of the juniors may well play in some of Swinton’s organised friendlies too, which will increase the amount of game time available to us.”
Marshall is currently getting to grips with his new role as both Wolves first-team coach and ambassador for the dual-registration players sent out to Swinton and various other clubs under the RFL’s new youth set-up following the scrapping of under 18s and under 20s competitions in favour of an under 19s one.
“To be part of the growth and future improvement of the club is a big honour and I’m looking forward to another 12 months here,” said the 37-year-old former London Broncos forward.
“My role will change slightly. I will act as a liaison for the players who are going to Swinton and I will work with them and Lions’ head coach Steve McCormack (ex-Widnes, Salford and Scotland head coach).
“I have already been involved in a couple of their training sessions over the last few weeks and that will be ongoing throughout the season.
“My focus will certainly be more on the first team and helping Tony and Willie produce an even better environment for those players, but we do need someone to liaise with Swinton and help the players we are sending over there, which will be part of my job.”
Wolves welcomed the younger professionals and a few senior players including Paul Wood and Micky Higham into pre-season training at their Padgate base on Monday.
Marshall is delighted that players have stuck to the programmes set by head of strength and conditioning Chris Baron and have returned to Padgate in excellent shape.
“We have a group of 16 lads in now that are fully fit, and we are doing fitness work and core skills as well as lots of small sided games and skills training to keep them interested,” he said.
“We had a fair amount of operations, so we have had players coming in to continue rehab that many have been undertaking off their own backs.
“No one has been left to their own devices, everyone has had a personalised plan from Chris Baron and the new physio Ben Stirling, and they have been looking after themselves well.”