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Ten years at The Halliwell Jones Stadium - part 10 - Close, but no cigar for Warrington Wolves
WOLVES’ highest number of home wins in a decade went without reward in 2013.
Fifteen victories at The Halliwell Jones Stadium beat the previous best of 14 but Tony Smith’s side stared at an empty trophy cabinet for the first time during his five-year reign.
Despite that, and an average drop of more than 800 fans attending Super League games, it was a campaign that could hardly be described as unsuccessful.
Their second place in Super League marked a top-three finish for the fourth year on the trot, while their loss of grip on the Challenge Cup came in their fourth semi finals appearance in five seasons.
And they were in control of the Grand Final against Wigan at Old Trafford – 16-2 in front – until injuries to Joel Monaghan and Stefan Ratchford proved costly.
The play-offs was a highlight, for the first time Wolves winning two matches at home in order to qualify.
A 40-20 smashing of reigning champions Leeds Rhinos, a game in which England ace Ben Westwood crossed for four tries, was followed by a bruising 30-22 victory over League Leaders’ Shield winners Huddersfield Giants.
Best game though was June’s visit by Wigan, an uncompromising confrontation of the highest order that attracted Wolves’ biggest home ‘gate’.
Just over 14,000 packed in as Smith’s men stung Wigan with late tries from player-of-the-year Micky Higham and England star Chris Hill to whip the primrose and blue barmy army into a frenzy.
That was not the biggest attendance at The Halliwell Jones Stadium in 2013 though, as 14,965 passed through the turnstiles on October 27 for the first Rugby League World Cup game to be staged at the ground.
And what a game followed two fierce haka displays as Warrington’s host nation Samoa, roared on by the appreciative crowd, clawed back to 36-24 from 36-4 against defending champions New Zealand before Kiwi winger Manu Vatuvei’s hat-trick try seven minutes from time settled matters.
The World Cup quarter final between Samoa and Fiji on November 15 attracted another 12,766 fans into Wolves’ den, with the Fijians’ better finishing qualities seeing them progress to a date with eventual winners Australia at Wembley.
But as the year ended with Wolves saying goodbye to some heroic performers – Lee Briers, Adrian Morley, Brett Hodgson, Garreth Carvell, Mike Cooper, Tyrone McCarthy and Rhys Williams – they could look back on a phenominal first 10 seasons at their Winwick Road home and look forward to the next decade with a great deal of optimism after the likes of Danny Bridge, Glenn Riley and James Laithwaite broke through into the first team.
Turnstiles click 1.5 million times
MORE than 1.5 million supporters have attended Wolves matches since The Halliwell Jones Stadium opened its turnstiles in 2004.
The figure, which does not include friendlies, stands at 1,532,536.
Highest number of people to enter the ground in a season was the 191,177 at 18 matches in 2011, the year Wolves won the League Leaders’ Shield for the first time in the Super League era and broke many scoring records in doing so.
Last year was second best, with 170,023 watching 18 games.
MILESTONES reached in matches at The Halliwell Jones Stadium during 2013 included Ben Westwood scoring his 100th club try in June’s win against Salford City Reds and Lee Briers making his 400th club start in the victory over Wigan Warriors in June.
Not so positive on August 15 was Widnes Vikings completing their first Super League double over Wolves since 2004, dousing hopes of a table-top finish.
England make their HJ debut AN England match was staged at The Halliwell Jones Stadium for the first time in 2013.
In a mid season warm-up for the Rugby League World Cup, Wolves’ Richie Myler, Chris Hill and Ben Westwood featured in a 30-10 success against Exiles on June 14.
Joel Monaghan, joined in the Exiles line-up by Warrington teammates Brett Hodgson and Trent Waterhouse, was among the scorers for the defeated side.
Two thirds won
WARRINGTON Wolves’ win ratio at The Halliwell Jones Stadium stands at 67.5 per cent at the end of the ground’s first 10 years.
One draw, 103 wins and 50 losses make up the 154 league, cup and play-offs matches staged.
Home tries in 2013
Joel Monaghan 17
Ben Westwood 10
Stefan Ratchford 8
Ben Currie 6
Micky Higham 6
Brett Hodgson 6
Ryan Atkins 5
...and since 2004
Chris Riley 64
Ben Westwood 57
Joel Monaghan 53
Lee Briers 44
Ryan Atkins 43
Chris Bridge 38
Henry Fa’afili 35
Matt King 34
Richie Myler 32
Chris Hicks 29