SIMON Moran says landing marquee signings Daryl Clark and Ashton Sims is a statement of intent from Warrington Wolves.
The confirmed £185,000 capture on a four-year deal of Castleford Tigers’ 21-year-old hooker Clark – one of the hottest properties in the game – follows on from last month’s announcement that bruising North Queensland Cowboys and Fiji captain Sims will be wearing primrose and blue for the next two seasons.
And the club’s owner is hoping supporters’ excitement levels will rise in anticipation of what 2015 has in store, high-profile recruits being on board for a shot at the new-format Super League.
In charge since 2004, Moran has overseen the revolution from ‘also rans’ to ‘consistent honours chasers’ and remains highly ambitious.
He said: “We keep trying to do better, move forward.
“Other teams are trying to do the same and it’s becoming very competitive. We’re showing with our signings that we want to be at the top of the game.”
And an important piece of the jigsaw moving forward has been a replacement for Michael Monaghan, who retires at the end of this season.
Moran added: “Michael Monaghan is a fantastic player. Barring possibly one or two hookers in Australia, Daryl Clark is the best possible replacement.
“He’s a great talent and we can’t wait to see him in primrose and blue.”
The dummy-half quality of Clark, a Challenge Cup finalist with Castleford at Wembley at the weekend, is at its explosive best when his pack men create opportunities by getting over the top of opponents.
That is where the likes of no-nonsense Sims and current England front-row star Chris Hill come into play for head of coaching and rugby Tony Smith.
“If people watch the NRL games on telelvision, they’ll know Ashton Sims is in great form – even better form than before we signed him,” said Moran.
“So when you now consider a front row of Chris Hill, Daryl Clark and Ashton Sims, we’re right up there with any team.”
It says a lot about Wolves’ pulling power that Clark, a tip for end-of-season honours with England as well as the Man of Steel Awards, has chosen to progress his blossoming career in primrose and blue.
Moran said: “Tony’s an elite coach, we have great training facilities, we’ve got fantastic supporters, we’ve reached the last two Grand Finals, won three Challenge Cups in six years and been in the top three for the last four years – I’d certainly hope we’d be one of the sides he’d want to join.
“Daryl has been admired greatly by Tony since he was 17 and we have tracked him respectfully since then. And when he became available to us there was fierce competition to sign him from both this country and Australia.
“We agreed terms well over a year ago with Castleford. We’ve paid a fee of £185,000.
“It was contracted that he would stay with Castleford in 2014 and then would join us for four years. That just worked for both parties.”
Wolves have not ruled in or out any further signings for next season.
Moran said: “These are the main ones. A lot of our young players are getting upgraded to allow players to progress, to give them the chance to become elite players.”
Homegrown young talent from the 2012 Under 20s Grand Final winning squad like Gene Ormsby, Ben Currie, Rhys Evans, Ben Evans, James Laithwaite, Gareth O’Brien, Glenn Riley and Brad Dwyer have had greater opportunity to show their wares in the first team this year.
“We’ve gone pretty well reaching the semi finals of the Challenge Cup and with three regular rounds of Super League remaining we could finish anywhere between first and sixth,” explained Moran.
“This has been done with the age of the squad this year, and next year, getting an overhaul.
“Losing the likes of Lee Briers and Adrian Morley, there’s been a lot of change. But we’ve won 11 of the past 13 league games. It’s pretty good and it’s a very exciting finish to the season.
“Hopefully the younger players and the new players will keep things moving forward for us.”
Moran also highlighted this year’s success at youth level, saying: “If our under 19s win tonight, Thursday, (against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats) we win the Academy league leaders trophy for the second time in three years. Again, that shows the progress we’ve made.”