EXPERIENCED half-back Paul Deacon is bracing himself for a backlash when Wigan begin their title defence.
The evergreen scrum-half is preparing for his 15th campaign in Super League.
And while many are tipping the Warriors to trample over all-comers in 2011 following the swoop for highly-rated Melbourne trio Ryan Hoffman, Jeff Lima and Brett Finch, history has taught Deacon to be more cautious.
The 31-year-old can still vividly remember his first Grand Final triumph with Bradford nearly a decade ago – and just how much other teams lifted their performances when they faced the Bulls the following year.
Deacon is expecting other teams to up their own performances when they face the champions, even accounting for their squad strengthening and last season’s success.
The former Hindley amateur said [pictured]: “I can still remember how much harder we found out it after the first time I won it with Bradford.
“People just wanted to knock us off. They were desperate to beat us.
“We won it in 2001, and the following year when we played against teams they were so much better than the previous year. They had an extra notch of enthusiasm.
“On top of that, I think we probably got a bit complacent against the so-called lesser teams because we were champions, and that’s something we’ll be making sure we don’t fall into that trap.
“I’m guessing Madge and the Melbourne lads had a similar thing in Australia after they won Grand Finals there.
“It’s definitely something we must be aware of.”
Bradford won their first Grand Final in 2001, beating Wigan 37-6. They progressed to Old Trafford the following season but were edged out by St Helens in the showcase final.
With marksman Pat Richards expected to miss the start of Super League XVI with an Achilles problem, Deacon is the front-runner to begin the season as Wigan’s goal-kicker.
He kicked 1,140 goals during more than a decade at the Bulls and is Bradford’s all-time leading points-scorer.
Amos Roberts would be the only other obvious contender to cover Richards’ goal-kicking duties, if the speedy winger recovers from a knee problem in time.
He kicked 100 goals during his NRL career with St George-Illawarra, Penrith and Sydney Roosters.
Wigan play their first game of 2011 this Sunday when they travel to Shaun McRae’s Salford, kick-off 3pm.