It’s not often that a reigning Man of Steel signs for Warrington. The last time we had a current player receive the award for being voted the best player of the season, it was Jonathon Davies, who returned to rugby union soon after when they finally caught up with us and became full-time professional. Of course, both Iestyn Harris and Paul Sculthorpe won the award after leaving us, so the capture of a player with the potential of Daryl Clark indicates how far we’ve come in recent times. We’re the club that signs the hot prospects now, not the club that has to sell them because we’re skint.
Clark and fellow newcomers Gary Wheeler and Ashton Sims join the club during a period of transition. Clark will be a straight forward replacement for the retired Michael Monaghan, though we said goodbye to Lee Briers and Adrian Morley this time last year and never truly replaced them. Wheeler is a stand off through choice – and a St Helens academy product – but whether or not he’ll be the long-term replacement for Briers – or even a short-term fix – is unsure, due to the fact that he’s spent half of his career on the injury table and most of the time he’s spent on the pitch at centre. At 25, he’s a bit old to be in the ‘youthful promise’ bracket, but has shown enough glimpses to suggest that if he can stay fit, he’s good enough to a regular Super League starter. The fact that he’s been given a 12 month contract suggests the club have worries about his long-term fitness, though of course, the flip side of that is if he does stay fit, the incentive of a new contract should ensure he performs.
Ashton Sims has already got the ladies of Warrington wet and the men drooling over how good he might be due to his bulging biceps and flowing locks. An Adonis he may be, but the same people already touting him as the new Morley are the same people slagging off Roy Asotasi on twitter and telling him not to bother coming back for Pre-Season. Surely if anyone knows not to judge a player until they’ve actually played for us, it’s them, as the last prop forward we signed from the NRL with a bit of reputation was, erm, Roy Asotasi. In a perfect world, 2015 will see Asotasi find the form that made Tony Smith seek his signature *and* Sims hit the ground running and be the marauding enforcer our pack sorely missed last year. But, we’ve seen as recently as Matt King and Michael Monaghan how even the best players can struggle to settle in the Super League in their first season, so maybe a little patience this year, eh?