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Ten years at The Halliwell Jones Stadium - part 4 - The progression falters
The former NRL Grand Final winner with Sydney Roosters fractured his cheekbone in the 2007 Super League season’s opening 16-10 win at Wigan after clashing heads with Eamon O’Carroll and so it was not until March 18 in a 30-12 victory against Hull KR that the fierce competitor could start to show home supporters why coach Paul Cullen and owner Simon Moran had gone ‘all out’ to bring him back from Australia.
It was a lift the team needed after a 48-12 home loss to St Helens in what played out as a disappointing campaign.
A miserly four wins in the next 13 games contributed to finishing seventh, outside of the play-offs.
The stadium was hardly the fortress Wolves were looking for, with seven of the 15 home games being lost.
A 43-24 success against Wigan in August was the best of the year from a squad now also featuring Vinnie Anderson (signed from St Helens) and Paul Johnson (brought in from Bradford), while the 52-10 home smashing by Leeds Rhinos in their second Grand Final winning year under Tony Smith was Wolves’ biggest loss of the season on any ground.
Average home Super League attendances rose slightly on the previous year, helped by some improved form in the final two months of the season when flying winger Kevin Penny broke into the first team showing some sensational try-scoring prowess – including a wonderful hat-trick in a 42-6 win against Salford.
The year marked the arrival of some new tenants – Liverpool Reserves.
Gary Ablett’s side made an instant impression playing Barclays Premier Reserve League (North) home games at The Halliwell Jones Stadium, their opening 1-0 home loss to Sunderland – watched by ex-Manchester United captain Roy Keane – being held up 15 minutes to allow 3,403 fans to enter.
Harry Kewell scored Liverpool’s first goal on the ground in the next game, a 2-1 success against Newcastle United, while the 6,243 who turned up to watch the mini-Merseyside ‘derby’ with Everton on December 4 was a stadium record for a football game.
Some of the talent on show then included current Liverpool right back Martin Kelly, Emiliano Insua (now at Athletico Madrid) and Mikel San Jose (Athletic Bilbao).
Warriors struggle in Wolves’ den
WIGAN Warriors continued to find The Halliwell Jones Stadium a graveyard.
Yet to win on the ground, they were embarrassed by huge underdogs Catalan Dragons in their Challenge Cup semi-final match at the venue on July 29.
After a campaign started by Warrington Guardian, the French team and their former Warrington prop Jerome Guisset were cheered on by about 1,000 delighted Wolves fans in the 10,218 crowd.
They played their part in a historic occasion, the 37-24 victory making Les Catalans the first French team to reach the Challenge Cup Final which, that year, was to be the first at the new Wembley.
A DISAPPOINTING 5,500 crowd turned out for a match to mark 100 years of international rugby league.
The Northern Union, captained by Warrington’s Adrian Morley, faced the New Zealand All Golds a century after the first professional tour from the southern hemisphere.
Warrington’s Martin Gleeson and Jon Clarke also featured in Tony Smith’s side, while Wayne Bennett’s team featured nine of that autumn’s Kiwis touring party – including Louis Anderson who was to get his first taste of playing at The Halliwell Jones Stadium ahead of his debut Wolves campaign in 2008.
The All Golds, who also included ex-Warrington players Nigel Vagana and Dave Kidwell in their starting line-up, won 25-18.
It was the last league match on these shores for New Zealand superstar Stacey Jones, who, after the final hooter, left his boots on the halfway line and gave them a little wave goodbye.
When the Saints come marching in
MATCHES at The Halliwell Jones Stadium against St Helens were proving to be the biggest attraction.
For the second year in a row, both home Super League games generated 13,024 capacity attendances.
Home tries in 2007
Ben Westwood 8
Henry Fa’afili 8
Brent Grose 8
Jon Clarke 7
Vinnie Anderson 7
Kevin Penny 6
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