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Super League V - 2000
SEASON ticket sales for Super League V went through the roof at Wilderspool as coach Darryl Van de Velde pulled off three of the highest-profile and most exciting signings ever made by the club.
Legendary Australian Test scrum-half Allan Langer came out of a brief retirement to wear the primrose and blue along with his long-time Brisbane Broncos colleague Andrew Gee, one of the world's toughest prop forwards, while New Zealand international Tawera Nikau chose to leave behind Aussie Grand Final winners Melbourne Storm in favour of the Wolves.
With England half-back Steve Blakeley moving to Wilderspool from Salford and French international second rower Jerome Guisset joining from Canberra Raiders, all the pundits were predicting a top-five finish for Warrington.
Unfortunately, the team failed to live up to the hype, despite getting their season off to a magnificent start with thumping Challenge Cup wins over NFP sides Hunslet Hawks and York Wasps.
The opening round of Super League saw London Broncos thrashed 48-18 at Wilderspool, with Alan Hunte grabbing two tries, and a week later Hunte was again the hero, his last-minute touchdown giving the Wolves a thrilling win away to Salford City Reds in a televised Challenge Cup quarter-final.
There was now a real belief that the Wolves were in for a season to remember, but two successive defeats by the Bradford Bulls - 58-4 at Odsal in Super League and 44-20 in the Challenge Cup semi-final at Headingley - proved that the Wolves squad was still not ready to consistently challenge the sport's big four of St Helens, Wigan Warriors, Bradford and Leeds Rhinos.
With confidence naturally low after the Bradford games, the Wolves slumped to two more defeats, at home to Hull FC and, agonisingly, away to Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, where a last-minute error by Dean Busby gifted the home team their winning try.
Successive wins at home to Leeds - with promising young centre Ian Sibbit scoring two tries - and away to Halifax Blue Sox seemed to put the Wolves' season back on track, only for derby defeats at home to St Helens and away to Wigan to once again expose the side's weaknesses.
A narrow win away to Huddersfield-Sheffield Giants and successive defeats away to Salford and at home to Castleford Tigers created further gloom for the Wolves.
But if there was one thing you could rely on in Super League 5 it was Warrington's unpredictability, and on May 28 Wilderspool witnessed a remarkable game as the Wolves overturned an 18-point half-time deficit to beat the mighty Bradford Bulls 42-32 - the Challenge Cup winners' first defeat of the season.
An away win over London, in a roadshow game at Newport RUFC, gave the Wolves another lift, but their season then nosedived in spectacular fashion.
The Wolves lost six of their next seven matches, culminating in a humiliating 44-24 defeat by rock bottom Huddersfield-Sheffield at Wilderspool in a rollercoaster game wich had seen on-loan winger Rob Smyth race in for four tries in the first half-hour of his Warrington debut.
Frustration on the terraces turned to anger with this defeat and glum-faced supporters staged a sit-in protest after the game, calling for the resignation of Van de Velde.
The Aussie coach did not quit, though, and the game was to prove a turning point in the season, as the Wolves addressed their problems and went on to win six of their final eight games to finish sixth - their highest placing in four seasons.
The end-of-season play-offs resulted in a Lancashire derby at Old Trafford, with St Helens and Wigan contesting the Grand Final.
And what a game it was, with Saints hanging on for an exciting 29-16 win despite a brave second-half rally from the Pie-eaters.
For Warrington, though, it had proved to be another disappointing season in which there had been some notable departures.
Blakeley quit Wilderspool in favour of his former club Salford after only a few months, and Jon Roper went on loan to London and Salford before being released at the end of the season.
Also released in an end-of-season clear-out were: Veteran former Great Britain winger Mark Forster, who was deemed surplus to requirements in the year of his double testimonial.
Popular Aussie hooker Danny Farrar, who chose to retire from the game after three hard-grafting years at Wilderspool.
England prop Mark Hilton, whose once-promising career sadly continues to be disrupted by serious injuries.
Jerome Guisset, who enjoyed his year in England but chose to return to his native France.
Off the field, too, it was a season of turmoil for the Wolves. Chief executive Peter Deakin quit towards the end of the campaign to join rugby union outfit Sale Sharks, long-serving assistant coach Paul Cullen left to take over the reins at Whiteheaven, and as the season ended, a vital planning application for a new stadium on Winwick Road was still to be decided upon, although Warrington Borough Council had given the plan its approval.
Despite all the problems and disappointments of 2000, though, Wolves fans can still look forward to better things in 2001, especially if the stadium proposal finally gets the go-ahead. With new signings Kevin Walters, Rob Smyth and Martin Masella coming to the club for Super League 6, and an exciting batch of youngsters such as Paul Noone, Jamie Stenhouse, Will Cowell, Mark Gleeson, Dave Alstead, Dave Highton and Paul Wood ready to make their mark, the play-offs should be a realistic aim next season.
Wolves squad: David Alstead, Steve Blakeley, Lee Briers, Dean Busby, Chris Campbell, Gary Chambers, Will Cowell, Danny Farrar, Mark Forster, Andrew Gee, Mark Gleeson, Jerome Guisset, David Highton, Mark Hilton, Alan Hunte, Ian Knott, Toa Kohe-Love, Allan Langer, Steve McCurrie, Tawera Nikau, Paul Noone, Danny Nutley, Neil Parsley, Lee Penny, Mike Peters, Jon Roper, Ian Sibbit, Rob Smyth, Jamie Stenhouse, Paul Wood.