Season Preview: Wigan Warriors
2021 was a frustrating year for Wigan fans as they watched their side stutter into the Play-Offs after beginning the campaign unbeaten in their opening seven matches.
The Warriors lacklustre attack – which proved to be the root of most supporters’ grievances - resulted in them scoring the second least number of points across Betfred Super League despite playing more games than any other team.
New head coach Matt Peet has been promoted to the top job after serving his apprenticeship through the Wigan ranks and is tasked with resolving the Warriors issues in attack. Alongside Peet is Warriors legend Sean O’loughlin and former Warrington Wolves half-back and assistant coach, Lee Briers – if anyone can add attacking flair to this Wigan side, it’s Briers.
Cade Cust has been brought in to fill the void left by Jackson Hastings, with Patrick Mago and Kaide Ellis adding experience to Wigan’s young and energic middle third. On paper, the Warriors can challenge in 2022 – and they will have a point to prove as well.
Ins & Outs
Abbas Miski (London Broncos), Kaide Ellis (St George Illawarra Dragons), Patrick Mago (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Cade Cust (Manly Sea Eagles), Iain Thornley (Leigh Centurions), Ramon Silva (London Broncos).
Jackson Hastings (West Tigers), Joe Bullock (Warrington Wolves), Oliver Gildart (West Tigers), Amir Bourouh (Salford Red Devils), Tony Clubb (retired), Mitch Clark (Newcastle Thunder), Dom Manfredi (retired), Chris Hankinson (Toulouse Olympique).
Ones to watch
Wigan certainly need a spark in their attack after an underwhelming showing in 2021, with new signing Cade Cust brought in to reignite the fire. The 23-year-old half arrives at the Warriors from NRL side Manly Sea Eagles – a club he represented 27 times after making his debut in 2019.
Cust brings with him energy, creativity and versatility - he played in both the halves and at hooker for Manly during his two years in the topflight. He's been given the number 6 shirt for 2022 and joins the Warriors eager to play a pivotal role in the sides spine and ready to grasp his opportunity to excel his career at Wigan. Cust has been earmarked as an early bookmaker's favourite for the Steve Prescott MBE Man of Steel award and as such, expectations will be high. Nevertheless, under the guidance of Wigan's coaching staff and with experienced players around him, Cust has all the tools to flourish in this year's competition.
After captaining England for the first time against France in October, expect John Bateman to return with a bang in 2022. Bateman didn’t have the intended impact during his first season back at the Warriors last year after a hugely successful stint in the NRL. He returned to the Warriors in 2021 following an NRL Grand Final appearance, as well as being named second row of the year and as such, arrived back in England as a major coup for Wigan.
The transition back into Super League was tough during a disruptive campaign last season, but Bateman still managed to hit an average of over 100 running metres per game and came up with some important plays during their Play-off pursuit. Ultimately, Bateman will be better after a year back on home soil and will be determined to right some wrongs this season.
One of the few positives from Wigan's 2021 campaign was the emergence of young back-rower, Kai Pearce-Paul. Londoner Pearce-Paul burst onto the scene last season and immediately grabbed his opportunity in the Warriors' first team. A tall, imposing figure, Pearce-Paul’s strength lies in his running game and ability to offload the ball from near on impossible positions. But what stood out even more during his break-through year was his tough, resolute defensive efforts. He averaged 34 tackles per game in 2021 alongside his 41 offloads – the third most by any player in Super League. The youngster has a bright future ahead and his stellar season was duly rewarded with a place in the England Knights squad last year.
The 2022 Betfred Super League campaign promises to be as competitive as ever and there should be all to play for right up until the final rounds of the season. The Warriors face a difficult conclusion to their 2022 season, going up against both of the Grand Finalists from 2021 and a side which completed the league double against them last year during the last three rounds of season. The Warriors host rivals St Helens on Friday 26 August before a short turnaround sees them travel to Hull KR on Monday 29 August. Their final Betfred Super League fixture sees them host the 2021 League Leaders, Catalans Dragons, in a match which could hold huge significance in the context of both sides seasons.
1. Bevan French, 2. Jake Bibby, 3. Zak Hardaker, 4. Iain Thornley, 5. Liam Marshall, 6. Cade Cust, 7. Thomas Leuluai, 8. Brad Singleton, 9. Sam Powell, 10. Patrick Mago, 11. Willie Isa, 12. Liam Farrell, 13. John Bateman, 14. Morgan Smithies, 15. Kaide Ellis, 16. Harry Smith, 17. Oliver Partington, 18. Warriors Fans, 19. Ethan Havard, 20. Liam Byrne, 21. Kai Pearce-Paul, 22. Joe Shorrocks, 23. Jai Field, 24. Abbas Miski, 25. Sam Halsall, 26. James McDonnell, 27. Umyla Hanley, 28. Brad O’Neill, 29. Alex Sutton, 30. Matty Nicholson, 31. Ramon Silva.