Following The Wire's return to pre-season training, sports reporter Matt Turner caught up with head coach Steve Price about a multitude of topics...

MT: It doesn’t seem like too much of a break that we’ve had, does it?

SP: It doesn’t! Me and the family managed to get away for a couple of weeks. We got some sun and some swimming in so it was nice.

MT: Well let’s talk about Bennie and his new deal. Was there a point in the year that it clicked in your mind that he was ready for another go?

SP: Me and Bennie had an agreement that we’d chat when the Super 8s came around, to see how he was feeling and more importantly to see if he was still playing to a standard I was happy with.

We came to the conclusion that he’s had a really good season. He’s been consistent, so at the back end of the Super 8s it became clear that he could go round again.

With what he offers around the club and around the young blokes, there’s not many of those players left in the game. It’s a fitting reward for him.

2019 will be Ben Westwood's 18th season with The Wire. Picture by Mike Boden

MT: I guess it’s important to emphasise isn’t it that he’s not been given this deal out of sentiment. He’s really earned it, hasn’t he?

SP: Yeah, that’s right. We wouldn’t have signed him if we didn’t feel he could go round again.

It wasn’t about the sentiment or what had happened previously. It was about what he did on the playing field this year.

He nailed his pre-season, and it’s important that he does that again this time around.

MT: The gauntlet has been thrown down for him hasn’t it? There’s a few new faces who operate in that loose forward/back row position he likes.

SP: That’s right. Nothing’s guaranteed for him, there’s a lot of players pushing for that spot.

You’ve got the likes of Jason Clark and Lama Tasi and others. Bennie has to earn the right for sure.

MT: So the guys started pre-season on Monday. A relatively short off-season but have they come back with a spring in their step?

SP: Some guys have got a bit of an extended break, due to the number of pre-seasons they have done and their age.

The England Knights boys have a bit more time off, as have Stef Ratchford, Chris Hill and Daryl Clark.

The boys have come back in good spirits and are buzzing around the place. There’s a lot of fresh faces in terms of players and our staff so things are exciting.

The Wire players are back in pre-season training. Picture by Warrington Wolves

MT: Is there a date that the international guys are due back, or are you playing things by ear at the moment?

SP: They’ll come back for a couple of days just prior to Christmas. We’ll all then have a break over Christmas and they will come fully back into the side in the new year.

MT: It will have been a bit of a blow to see Daz Clark get injured in that second Test. Are you hopefully it won’t affect his pre-season too much?

SP: It was definitely very unfortunate. He was just getting back into those honours which he was very excited about.

He’s just got a couple of cracked ribs. They’ll take between six and eight weeks to heal but he will be fine to come back to training with the other internationals.

It’s just a little uncomfortable for him at the moment during his break, but we’re confident it will settle down and he’ll be ready to go for the start of the season.

Daryl Clark is helped off after suffering a rib injury during England's win over New Zealand at Anfield. Picture by Mike Boden

MT: Obviously it’s very early days at the moment in terms of pre-season, so has the focus of these couple of days been on getting everyone familiar with each other again?

SP: It’s just been about getting back into the grind. Pre-seasons get harder but you’ve got to be smarter about it.

At this time of the year, it’s about working extremely hard and building that resilience. That’s been our main focus.

MT: So it’s more about the strength and conditioning side of things on this side of Christmas?

SP: That’s right. There will be a lot of work on speed, agility and conditioning with components of on-field skill.

It’s a bit of a mixture and we’re looking to build on the foundations we laid last season.

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MT: The pitch at Padgate looks like it’s been refurbished. It looks like you can play bowls on it now!

SP: That’s a credit to the club, the board and also the university for upgrading the field.

There’s new drainage that’s been put in across the park. It was quite difficult to train on that pitch regularly last year, so hopefully that solves all those problems.

It makes the transition a lot easier and it saves time throughout the day rather than having to go back and forth to the stadium.

MT: All the new signings were in on day one, while they seemed to come over in dribs and drabs last year. The value of that and them having a full pre-season with you can’t be underestimated, can it?

SP: It’s critical. It was difficult last year because I was new to the place as well.

Now, I’ve got 12 months under my belt and we planned ahead to get the likes of Blake Austin and Jason Clark over here a little bit early before we started training, which was very handy.

I feel like we’re a lot more advanced now than where we were this time last year, but in saying that we had 10 guys who had the opportunity to represent their country.

It means they will be late back, but we’re hoping the experience they gained from that stands them in good stead going forward.

Blake Austin reported for duty along with the other five new signings on Monday. Picture by Warrington Wolves

MT: For the young guys that will be in the first-team environment over the coming weeks, it’s a big chance for them to leave their mark.

SP: Certainly. We’ve tried to give opportunities to our younger kids and we’ll continue to develop that.

That’s credit to Pete Riding for his identification of players that we see as a big part of our club going forward.

These young players have been given an opportunity, and hopefully we can shape their careers by doing so.

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MT: The squad seems pretty healthy as it is, but is there potentially room for more new faces?

SP: It’s a tough one at the moment. We have a spot there, but whether we use it or not is something I’m not 100 per cent sure on.

We may go there, we may not.

MT: There’s been a lot of rumblings that you may be in the market for a half-back. Is that the case?

SP: No. What amazes me is the rumours and innuendo that goes on around our club.

All the speculation about us looking for a half-back over the past couple of weeks is completely untrue.

I’m very happy with Blake, Kev Brown and Dec Patton as our half-back options going forward.

Kevin Brown will not be leaving The Wire prior to next season. Picture by Mike Boden