STEFAN Ratchford admits he is still trying to rediscover the impressive form that helped lead Warrington Wolves to last season’s Grand Final.
Last year’s players’ player of the year suffered serious ankle ligament damage in that defeat to Wigan and has spent time between the full back and halves for Wolves this season.
Wolves have won five of their last six outings this campaign, but Racthford believes there is room for improvement.
“I know myself that I’ve got to improve my own game and then hopefully that will help the team improve as well,” said the 25-year-old.
“Injury wise I feel fine, it was a long lay-off after the Grand Final, but form wise I’m not playing as well as I’d like to and as a team we’re not playing as well as we’d like to.
“That comes through individual performances not being up to the standard they should be, but the good thing for us is we’ve been winning games and not particularly playing well as a group.
“To win five out of six and not be playing that well is only a good thing, but we all know there’s a lot of improvement to come in individual and team performances.”
The rise of Matty Russell has seen Ratchford partner Richie Myler in the halves and the former Salford man is now hoping to establish a consistent combination.
“I’ve played in the halves most of my career, half back and full back are quite similar positions the way you attack, it’s just obviously defensively you are more in the line in the halves,” he explained.
“I’ve not had to adapt too much, hopefully we can get a good pairing going between me and Rich and Matty at the back, pick our individual performances up and improve as a team.
“Early season we did have a few people changing around and people getting injured and then it was a couple of new faces before swapping around again.
“In the Huddersfield game and at the weekend we had a very similar side, a lot of the people were in the same positions, obviously Tony (Smith) likes to rotate but the more me and Richie play together the more we can combine and the more we will learn.”
Head of coaching and rugby Smith has been frustrated by Wolves’ kicking game at times this season, something Ratchford says Lee Briers has lent a hand in improving.
“We had Briersy and we all know what his kicking game was about,” he added. “So for me and Richie it is a big thing.
“The kicking game is a massive part of the game nowadays, if you can get away a good kick and a good chase in your opponent’s 10 metre line it’s a great place to start.
“Me and Richie know that we’re not kicking as well as we should be or at the standard we should be, but we’re out there every day and Briersy’s come in a couple of times to help us out.
“We’ve also got another kicking coach (Colin Stephens) who comes over and gives us a hand so hopefully the next few weeks we’ll keep working on it and it will become better.”
Wolves face Hull KR for the second time in five days on Friday, but Ratchford insists they are just as focused on getting another positive result.
“I think it’s the first time it’s ever happened to me, it’s quite strange only playing a team five days ago it makes for an interesting game,” he said.
“We worked each others’ strengths and weaknesses last week and the good thing about playing a team not so long ago is it’s fresh in your mind what you need to do – hopefully we can do that on Friday.
“Hull KR, especially at home, like to kick long and kick early, they’ve got a big pack and they like to pin teams on their own line.
“We have a big focus on trying to pressure teams on last tackle plays and, no matter what team you play, it is a big thing if you can make them make a poor kick and return the ball a lot further up field.
“That is one of their strong points, so we know they’re probably going to try something different this week and try and catch us out, so it’s a big focus for us.”