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Hint of the success to come
AT times in 2006 Wolves were in danger of losing some of the momentum that had been growing since the move into The Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Losing four of their first five home Super League games, a period which included a first win on the road for new club Catalan Dragons, threatened to wipe out all the hysteria around the club from the Andrew Johns guest spell at the end of 2005.
Two losses to Salford particularly hurt, especially after a five-try show from Martin Gleeson against the same opposition in a one-sided Mike Wainwright Testimonial pre-season match had suggested better was to come.
It was in April that a mighty 27-4 home success against champions Bradford Bulls and one week later a scintillating 44-16 defeat of Grand Final runners-up Leeds Rhinos, in which new arrival and captain Paul Rauhihi was sensational, brought everyone back onside for a run of nine wins in 11 outings.
Then disaster struck, a humiliating Challenge Cup quarter-final loss at National League Hull Kingston Rovers was the first of five straight losses.
Wolves found a way to taper that blow, quickly announcing that they were bringing Great Britain forward Adrian Morley home from Australia and that he would be gracing The Halliwell Jones Stadium turf in 2007.
Despite stuttering league form from then, three full houses during the season had highlighted the growing interest in all things primrose and blue.
And there was a boost from the unexpected ending to the campaign, albeit away from Warrington.
After finishing sixth in the table, nobody would have predicted the club’s first play-offs win of the Super League era – a 19-18 success at Tony Smith’s Leeds courtesy of a wonderful try-saving tackle from Rob Parker and then a heroic last-gasp one pointer from Lee Briers.
Wolves looked capable of another upset at Odsal Stadium a week later until Lesley Vainikolo’s 90-metre interception effort came to Bradford’s rescue.
It seemed the slow start to the year was affected by Nathan Wood’s replacement Michael Sullivan, who had been an impact hooker for NRL side Cronulla Sharks, not settling into the scrum half position but youngsters Chris Bridge and Simon Grix gained experience from taking on the role.
Other emerging first-team talent in 2006 included Chris Riley, Mike Cooper and Ben Harrison, while at the end of the campaign Wolves said goodbye to long-serving Mark Hilton, Toa Kohe-Love, Danny Lima, Logan Swann and Paul Noone.
Joey-mania helps build record sales
ON the back of Wolves fever and Andrew Johns mania at the end of 2005, more than 8,000 season tickets were sold.
Putting that into perspective, Wolves’ average home Super League attendance in the final year at Wiilderspool Stadium was 7,031.
Indifferent form did have some impact though, with the season’s Super League average home ‘gates’ dropping from 11,003 in 2005 to 10,406.
Briers for Britain!
WHEN Lee Briers broke Steve Hesford’s career record for Warrington drop goal successes he did it at The Halliwell Jones Stadium.
The one pointer he slotted in the stunning 27-4 defeat of reigning champions Bradford Bulls on April 23, 2006, took him to 48 in 10 seasons.
He had equalled Hesford’s total with four drop goals in the club’s first win at the JJB Stadium, where Wolves beat Wigan on March 10.
It was around that time that the ‘Briers for Britain’ campaign was instigated by television commentator and former Guardian journalist Eddie Hemmings.
National league clubs flock in
THE National Leagues Grand Finals Day was brought to The Halliwell Jones Stadium for the first time on October 8, 2006.
Hull Kingston Rovers defeated Widnes Vikings 29-16 in the NL1 showdown, while Sheffield Eagles thumped Swinton Lions 35-10 in the NL2 season finale.
For the fourth time during the year, the sold-out signs were posted outside the ground as 13,024 fans crammed into Wolves’ new den.
SPORTS minister Richard Caborn visited The Halliwell Jones Stadium in April 2006 to officially open the ‘Playing For Success’ educational facility in the North Stand.
Home tries in 2006
Henry Fa’afili 14
Richie Barnett 7
Jon Clarke 6
Chris Bridge 6
Martin Gleeson 6
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