Wakefield Trinity Wildcats are now just one game away from a Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final, and plenty of that success is down to forward Tinirau Arona, whose crucial tries and solid displays have helped Trinity overcome a trio of tricky ties so far.
Ladbrokes News sat down for an exclusive chat with the Cook Islands international, who discussed his love for the Wakefield fans, that imperious display against Sheffield Eagles, and much more. Now, over to the Wakey wizard…
Ladbrokes News: Wakefield are now just one game away from a first Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final since 1979. How much motivation is it for yourself and the team to give Wakefield fans that long-awaited day out at Wembley?
Tinirau Arona: We’re really excited as a team to be in the Challenge Cup semi-finals. We’ve worked so hard to reach this point, and one of the things that has continually driven us on is wanting to give success to the Wakefield fans.
We want to reach this final for all those loyal fans who’ve been there throughout the years. They deserve that reward.
LN: You’ve played a big part in the tournament so far, bagging two tries against Sheffield Eagles in the fifth round, and featuring in the wins over Toulouse & Huddersfield too. How do you rate your performances personally and those of the Wakefield team, in this season’s competition?
TA: When I arrived at Wakefield, I had to learn how to play English rugby, and that’s something I’ve gradually adjusted to.
One of the positives for me personally with the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup is that we’ve joined the tournament once the warmer weather has begun and that means the pitches have become more similar to the ones I’m used to back in Australia.
So it took me time to adjust to those heavy pitches, but I’ve found my feet now, and the performance against Sheffield was one of my best during my time in England.
I think we’re playing some excellent rugby of late, but we can’t get ahead of ourselves. It’s just about focusing on the semi-final now.
LN: You’ve played Warrington twice this season, winning at home and losing away. Who will be your key men this time if you are to taste victory at Leigh Sports Village in this semi?
TA: Everyone in the side will be important, from player one to 17. I think myself and the other forwards will need to have a huge game – and we do a lot of the tough, unglamorous work which the fans don’t always see!
We’re not a side where I’d pick out one or two players, because we’ve got quality throughout the squad, and we play as a team. If we find our best form as a collective, we can beat Warrington.
LN: Current Wakefield boss Chris Chester led Hull KR to the final of this competition last year. How important has been in preparing you guys for a semi-final and potential final this time around?
TA: Chris has given this team a lot of confidence, and a lot of that belief comes from knowing that you’ve got an experienced leader in charge.
He knows exactly how to prepare for a game like this, and for our part, all the guys are very committed to working hard for the coach.
LN: Wakefield are sure to bring a good away following over to Leigh for this game. How crucial will they be for a huge fixture like this?
TA: The fans are hugely important in spurring us on for games. To be honest, I was surprised by just how many of them came over to support us in Perpignan when we beat Catalans earlier this month.
Ever since I’ve joined Wakefield, I’ve been a strong believer that our fans are the ones who get us over the line in those really tight games, like Catalans away where we edged it with a 30-28 win.
We obviously notice the fans when we’re out on the field, and they give us the inspiration to find a little bit more energy in ourselves and push even harder.
LN: Wakey have been one of the most exciting sides in rugby league this season – producing the 62-0 win over Wigan and that thriller at Catalans, while Warrington have been Super League’s highest scorers so far. Do you think this game will excite the neutrals a lot, as well as fans of both sides?
TA: Absolutely – it’s going to be a cracking tie. The last meeting was very high-scoring and full of twists and turns, though we eventually came out on top [Wakefield won 36-28].
We obviously can’t forget about defence, because stifling Warrington as an attacking force could be a crucial part of winning the game, but we need to try and find weaknesses in their defence and try and rack up a lead which we can hold onto.
Wakefield are 7/2 to produce an upset with victory at Warrington in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final, with 2/9 for a home win and 20/1 for the draw.
Meanwhile, it’s 5/1 for Tinirau to continue his excellent record in this tournament with another try anytime, while 40/1 says he’ll be first over the line.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing