CUP king Lee Briers is lending his expertise to Warrington Wolves’ trophy hunt this season.
The club legend, highly influential in runs to finals over the past five years, is helping out in the kicking department.
Briers, now a joint coach of Wolves’ under 19s team, is working with the likes of Richie Myler, Stefan Ratchford and Gareth O’Brien in what is a key element at elite level and an area in which the team have failed to impress since the 35-year-old’s retirement at the end of last season.
Going into Sunday’s opening Challenge Cup test at Hull Kingston Rovers, Wolves joint skipper Michael Monaghan, another four-times silverware winner with Warrington, says form will rise further when pressure is applied to opponents through superior kicking.
And ironically, the Robins’ ground is where Briers’ golden-point drop goal started the run of three cup triumphs in the first four years of Tony Smith’s reign as boss.
“Our kicking game is the big issue we’ve got at the moment,” said the 33-year-old hooker, who, like Briers, is a past winner of the Lance Toddy Trophy for a starring role in a Challenge Cup Final triumph at Wembley.
“It’s an area we need to improve in. The boys are putting in a lot of hard work, staying back after training and doing kicking before training.
“And Briersy’s been in doing work with the kickers. We’d had him predominantly doing the kicking for the past decade and more, and it’s tough to expect people to fill those boots straight away.
“Saying that, we need to be better at it regardless of who is on the field.”
He added: “A lot of it is not just the kicking, it’s setting up for it and getting ourselves into positions to be successful with kicking, so it’s about the other guys around the kickers too.
“We’re working hard on it again this week because on Sunday it will need to be one of our strengths.”
Monaghan said it was ‘amazing’ that Wolves secured 33 points in the weekend’s impressive comeback win at League Leaders’ Shield holders Huddersfield Giants without the benefit of applying pressure from the boot.
“Defensively we’re standing up and making up for that,” he said.
The 29-0 second-half success against Giants featured far more invention than seen in the previous week’s 12-4 home loss to champions Wigan.
Monaghan pointed to the drier conditions at Huddersfield being a factor and added: “I know a lot of fans were disappointed with our attack and now there’s been a bit of a response to that.
“We know if we keep working hard that when the conditions do suit us a little bit more and some of the combinations start to stick, we’re going to be a pretty good side.
“While we’ve said it’s a work-in-progress and the back half of the year is going to be better for us, it doesn’t mean we’re not focused on winning trophies. It’s just about getting the process right to get there.”
And he highlighted the signs that he says show that this new-look Wolves team are gathering momentum.
“To hang in the way we did and come back from 14-4 down at half time against Huddersfield was a really positive sign for us,” he said.
“And to beat – on their home ground – a quality team like Huddersfield, that people were talking about a few weeks ago as the best team in the competition, is certainly encouraging.
“It’s about building from that. We’ve been building the past couple of weeks. Attack has been an issue but defensively we’ve been getting a lot better and being a really good defensive team is something we want to hang our hat on this year.
“I think the past two weeks have shown that we’re on the right track. We’re definitely getting some momentum and it’s now about making the most of that.”
Confidence is growing at the right time, with the cup campaign starting at a revamped Hull KR ground on Sunday, when Wolves’ fans will be housed in a new £8m North Stand.
Monaghan said: “It’s a tough draw. I remember the last time we played them in the cup – a game that probably started our sequence of success in the competition – we were 10 minutes away from losing that and therefore the cup we went on to win in 2009.
“It’s good memories for us, but it’s a tough place to go and play.
“They’re a side we have struggled with recently and they have put a lot of points on us.
“If we can keep building on what we’ve done in the past few weeks, then we’ll give ourselves a good chance to get the win there.
“They’ve been hit with injuries a little bit at the start of the season. They’re a little like us – building in confidence and momentum. They’ll fancy their chance against us and probably see us as a team that’s there to be taken after what we’ve achieved the past few years compared to how we’ve started this season.
“But we’re definitely building and we’re going into this game really confident, as they will be.”