All good things come to an end and so, with sadness on both sides, it was announced on Sunday September 10, that Tony Smith would be leaving Warrington at the end of the season.

Warrington had beaten Leigh Centurions 32-30 in the Qualifiers the previous day to guarantee their place in Super League in 2018.

During his eight-and-a-half-year reign, Smith had won three Challenge Cups (2009, 2010 and 2012) and two League Leaders’ Shields (2011 and 2016).

Warrington had also reached (but lost) three Grand Finals (2012, 2013 and 2016) and a fourth Challenge Cup final, in 2016.

In terms of games won, he was the club’s most successful coach with a win percentage of 66.6 per cent (201 wins from 302 matches, with six draws and 95 defeats), putting him just ahead of Ces Mountford, whose win percentage was 65 per cent.

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Tony Smith left Wolves having won three Challenge Cups with the club. Picture by Mike Boden.

In historical terms, Mountford would still have to be regarded as the club’s best coach having guided the Wire to two league championships in 1953-54 and 1954-55, a Challenge Cup (1954) and a Lancashire Cup (1959) as well as seeing his team top the table twice (1954-55 and 1955-56).

But that still put Smith ahead of another club legend, the mercurial Alex Murphy.

When Smith took charge in March 2009, Warrington were in the throes of a club record 10-game losing streak and some senior players of the squad had an unprofessional attitude.

When he signed off with victory against Hull Kingston Rovers at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington had won 10 games in a row and senior players were blaming themselves for not performing on the pitch.

The sea change in expectation, attitude and culture was enormous.

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Warrington Guardian:

Tony Smith's emotional goodbye to the Halliwell Jones Stadium crowd. Picture by Mike Boden

The 2017 season could best be described as a roller-coaster ride.

Warrington beat Brisbane Broncos in the World Club series – one of the standout victories of Smith’s reign – before failing to qualify for the Super 8s and then ending the campaign in the Qualifiers.

As the roller-coaster went downhill fast, a small minority of Warrington fans started to voice the unthinkable and call for Tony Smith to be sacked as coach.

Amazingly, after Warrington had been beaten at home by Salford in May, a story even appeared on the club’s Facebook page announcing that Smith had resigned.

The club said the page had been hacked and launched an inquiry while Smith said: “I don’t give up that easily.”

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Wolves players reflect on the home defeat to Salford Red Devils in May, after which a post briefly appeared on the club's Facebook page announcing the departure of Tony Smith.

By the end of the season, however, Smith admitted that it was time to go and that he had fallen out of love with the game.

Smith’s assistant, Richard Agar, also moved on in October, after three years with the club, to take up a coaching role in Australia.

The victory over the Brisbane Broncos was both thrilling and unexpected.

The six-time Australian champions were hot favourites to win on their first visit to The Halliwell Jones Stadium but were blown away by the Wolves in an extraordinary opening 20 minutes.

Man-of-the-match Kevin Brown, making his Warrington debut, scored the opening try after two minutes, darting over after Joe Westerman had raced 60 metres before being tackled.

Ryan Atkins and Matty Russell also crossed with Declan Patton kicking four goals to put Warrington 20-0 ahead. No one expected that.

Corey Oates replied for the Broncos but Tom Lineham’s try, confirmed by the video referee, gave Warrington an 18-point lead at the break.

Brisbane scored two more tries in the second half and looked increasingly menacing but another goal and a drop goal from Patton saw Warrington home 27-18.

It was the first time in five years that an English team had beaten an Australian side and was made possible by a number of excellent performances, notably from Kurt Gidley who was faultless in his first appearance at full-back for the Wolves.

Warrington’s biggest crowd of the season – 12,082 – were there to see it.

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Warrington Guardian:

Warrington Guardian:

A momentous night for Wolves as they saw off the heralded Brisbane Broncos. Pictures by Mike Boden

It seemed certain that Smith’s side would once again be competing for the game’s top prizes at the end of the campaign but, below the surface, there were already one or two warning signs.

Before facing the Broncos, Warrington had already lost their final pre-season fixture (12-0 at home to Huddersfield) and their opening Super League game (20-12 against Catalans Dragons in Perpignan).

They would also be without second row Ben Currie, their leading tryscorer for the previous two seasons and best player, until July because of his cruciate ligament injury and, in the short-term at least, the gifted Chris Sandow would be missed.

Warrington’s two remaining Australians, Gidley (35 in June) and Ashton Sims (32 in February), were also coming to the end of their careers as was Super Bennie Westwood (36 in July).

Added to that, none of the close-season signings would turn out to be as good as hoped.

Warrington lost their opening six Super League games to leave them bottom of the table and ending any hope of retaining the League Leaders’ Shield.

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Warrington Guardian:

Glum faces all round after Wolves' defeat at St Helens, their sixth in a row at the start of the Super League campaign. Pictures by Mike Boden

Included in that run was a 22-8 defeat at newly-promoted Leigh, where Gidley became the first player in the world to wear a Playercam during a match.

At half-time at Leigh Sports Village, with Warrington trailing 12-2 and Gidley unhappy with his own performance, the Playercam was removed.

Leigh, with two tries from Gareth Hock and with Mickey Higham at hooker, still won.

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Kurt Gidley became the first Super League player to wear a 'Playercam' during The Wire's 22-8 defeat at Leigh in March.

Warrington stopped the rot on April 1 with a 22-22 draw against Hull, when Matty Russell scored his first hat-trick for the club, and followed that with five wins in six Super League matches to start moving up the table.

But the poor start to the season meant that Warrington’s best chance of winning silverware was in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup.

Warrington were drawn at home to Widnes in the sixth round when Kevin Brown grabbed a hat-trick in a 34-20 victory despite being booed throughout by fans of his former club.

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Kevin Brown scored a hat-trick against former side Widnes in the Challenge Cup fifth round. Picture by Mike Boden

Warrington were paired with Wigan in the quarter-finals and the result was a thrilling match shown live on the BBC.

Wolves were always chasing the game but the outcome was in doubt until the very end.

Two tries from Joe Burgess, both converted by George Williams, got Wigan off to a flying start before two tries from Ryan Atkins, both from pinpoint kicks and both converted by Declan Patton, levelled things at 12-12.

A try from Liam Marshall (who had already scored four against Warrington at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in the league) and another Williams conversion made it 18-12 to the visitors at half-time.

A Williams penalty nudged Wigan ahead 20-12 before a try from Andre Savelio, converted by Patton, and a Patton penalty made it 20-20 with 16 minutes left to play.

Once again, though, Warrington were unable to get a grip on the scoreboard as John Bateman scored the fourth Wigan try.

Williams added the conversion and full-back Sam Tomkins kicked a drop goal to put the visitors seven points clear with seven minutes remaining.

All seemed lost until Kurt Gidley dummied his way over from close range and Patton added the goal to make it 27-26.

Now the real drama began as Joe Burgess sent his kick-off out on the full to give Stefan Ratchford the chance to win the game with a penalty from half way.

The full-back struck the ball well enough but it drifted just wide.

Still Warrington were not finished and Declan Patton had the chance to kick a drop goal and send the tie into golden point extra time but he screwed his effort off target.

Come the final hooter, the Warrington players slumped to the ground in despair. There would be no return trip to Wembley and the trophy cabinet would be bare.

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Joy for Wigan but despair for Wolves in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals. Picture by Mike Boden

Wigan would return to the Halliwell Jones Stadium in July for the semi-final against Salford while Warrington would have to win their five remaining games in the regular Super League season to salvage their campaign and qualify for the Super 8s.

On paper, the most difficult fixture was Wigan away (which Warrington won 16-10 with Ben Currie scoring the winning try on his return from injury) but, before then, the damage had already been done with a 26-12 defeat at Wakefield.

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Ben Currie marked his return from injury with a try at Wigan, but Wolves were consigned to a Middle 8s campaign. Picture by Mike Boden

Warrington could only finish ninth in the final table, one point outside the Super 8s, and so were condemned to play in the Qualifiers, as Leeds Rhinos had been the year before.

Being in the Qualifiers meant that Warrington played (and defeated) Widnes four times during the season (twice at home and twice away), repeating the feat of the previous campaign.

In the absence of Ben Currie, winger Tom Lineham was Warrington’s leading tryscorer with 21, including four against Leigh in July.

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Tom Lineham topped The Wire's try-scoring charts for 2017, crossing 21 times. Picture by Mike Boden

As mentioned above, Wigan winger Liam Marshall scored four tries against Warrington in March.

But Castleford winger Greg Eden went one better in June when he scored five tries against Warrington at the Jungle to join a very select group.

Only two other players, Ike Southward and Martin Offiah (twice), had achieved that before.

Warrington’s new signings experienced mixed fortunes. Kevin Brown improved as the season went on and the returning Mike Cooper started 24 games, although his best performance probably came against Brisbane.

Another returnee, Matty Blythe, hardly featured and retired though injury at the end of the season.

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Matty Blythe is carried off injured against Castleford in June and the game turned out to be his last in rugby league. Picture by Mike Boden

Prop Dom Crosby suffered a personal tragedy with the death of his baby daughter Ada in March.

The Warrington players wore black armbands before the home game against Hull and a minute’s silence was observed before kick-off as a mark of respect.

Second row Andre Savelio was used mainly as a replacement and he announced in July that he would be spending the 2018 campaign with Brisbane.

Unusually, Warrington were also active in the transfer market during the season. In April, the Wolves signed 20-year-old Taylor Prell, a former England Under-20 rugby union international, from Yorkshire Carnegie after he scored four tries in a reserve game against Hull.

Two more interesting signings followed in June. Australian centre Ben Pomeroy, aged 33, a former Catalans Dragon, arrived from Lezignan Sangliers and was quickly followed by New Zealand Test centre Peta Hiku, aged 24, from Penrith Panthers, with the latter impressing from day one.

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Peta Hiku was hugely impressive during his brief spell with Wolves, scoring 10 tries in 11 games. Picture by Mike Boden

Sadly, he announced in September that he was returning home at the end of the season for family reasons.

He was replaced by another Kiwi, Bryson Goodwin, aged 31, who had signed for Leigh from South Sydney before they were relegated after losing the Million Pound Game.

Hiku’s Panthers team-mate, Tongan prop Sitaleki Akauola, aged 25, was signed in July on a two-year contract from 2018.

To make way for new signings, it was announced that some players would be moving on. K

urt Gidley would be retiring, centre Rhys Evans would be joining Leigh and hooker Brad Dwyer signed a two-year contract with Leeds as a replacement for the retiring Rob Burrow.

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Kurt Gidley retired from rugby league at the end of the 2017 season. Picture by Mike Boden

Ashton Sims and Joe Westerman (sold for £130,000) would be joining Toronto Wolfpack while Kevin Penny was released at the end of the season.

Sam Wilde and Jack Johnson went out on loan to Widnes in May while Wilde also spent the final three months of the season with London Broncos before signing a two-year deal with Widnes from 2018.

Full-back Will Dagger, Warrington’s Under-19s player of the year, moved to Hull Kingston Rovers. After the World Cup, Benjamin Jullien was sold to Catalans Dragons.

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Benjamin Jullien had an impressive 2017, but will return to his native France to play for Catalans Dragons next year. Picture by Mike Boden

As usual, a number of players reached career landmarks.

Ryan Atkins scored the 200th try of his career against St Helens in May and his 150th for Warrington against Catalans Dragons in June and, in the process, became the club’s leading tryscorer at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, overtaking Joel Monaghan.

Fittingly, he was the Player of the Year and the Players’ Player of the Year.

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Ryan Atkins makes it try number 150 for Warrington against St Helens in May. Picture by Mike Boden

Super Bennie Westwood made his 400th Warrington appearance (375 starts and 25 as a substitute) against Catalans Dragons in the Qualifiers in July.

Westwood would have reached the milestone much sooner had he not missed half of the season through injury and suspension.

He was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle on Liam Sutcliffe one minute into the Leeds game in April. He was later banned for four matches for the challenge.

He was also handed a three-match ban for a dangerous throw on Leigh forward Danny Tickle. Added to that he suffered a broken hand in the 24-24 draw with Wigan at the Magic Weekend in Newcastle.

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Ben Westwood played his 400th Warrington game in the clash with Catalans Dragons in July. Picture by Mike Boden

Second row Jack Hughes played in all 33 games, making six of those appearances in the centres when Warrington were struggling with injuries.

On the heritage front, Brian Glover, the powerhouse winger from the Sixties, was inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in April, although he was too ill to attend his inauguration at the Warrington Players’ Association annual dinner. He died, aged 81, in July.

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Brian Glover was inducted into the Warrington Wolves Hall of Fame in April but died in July aged 81.

Other past players who died during 2017 were loose-forward Ray Clark, aged 72, Double-winning hooker Frank Wright, aged 86, and Wembley centre Arnold Stevens, aged 82, who all passed away in January.

Loose-forward Bill Churm died in February aged 74, while centre Reg Hughes died in October aged 88.

There was more nostalgia in February when a set of Wilderspool-style goalposts were unveiled on Brian Bevan Island with three of the club’s greatest goalkickers – Lee Briers, Derek Whitehead and Steve Hesford – in attendance.

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A permanent video screen was unveiled inside The Halliwell Jones Stadium in June. Picture by Mike Boden

There was also more investment at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in June with the unveiling of two big screens, one inside and one outside the ground, on which to show action replays and advertising.

The BMW dealers also agreed to extend their naming rights for five more years until 2021.

On the international front, Kevin Brown, Stefan Ratchford and Chris Hill travelled to Australia for the one-off Test against Samoa in May when Ratchford side-stepped through the defence for a fine try.

All three – and Ben Currie – were named in England’s 24-man squad for the World Cup in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea in October and November.

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Warrington Guardian:

Warrington Guardian:

Chris Hill, Ben Currie, Kevin Brown and Stefan Ratchford all played a part for England during the Rugby League World Cup. Pictures by NRLPhotos

They were among a host of Warrington players involved in the tournament.

George King and Joe Philbin were in the Ireland squad (Toby King had to pull out through injury), Ashton Sims was in the Fiji squad, Peta Hiku was with New Zealand, Benjamin Jullien with France and Matty Russell with Scotland.

Finally, two former Warrington players had disturbing tales to tell in 2017.

Rob Parker spoke of his addiction to painkillers while Ian Knott, who had considered taking his own life, urged people with mental health issues to seek help. It was time to take player welfare more seriously.

It has been a busy year. New coach Steve Price, appointed in October on a two-year contract after an extensive search by chief executive Karl Fitzpatrick, is taking charge of a big club with big ambitions.

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Steve Price will lead Wolves into 2018. Picture by Mike Boden