HARRISON Hansen has noticed an increased hunger in the Wigan squad after twice falling short in major competitions last season.
The entire squad is back together after the six England internationals returned to training for their USA training camp.
And as they prepares for the new campaign under the Florida sun, Hansen admits the way they tumbled out of the Grand Final race still gnaws at him.
Having lost to Leeds in the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup, the table-toppers saw their Old Trafford dreams ended by the same opposition in a dramatic 13-12 play-off semi-final defeat.
“It’s still painful, thinking about it,” said Hansen. “I think it’s made everyone hungry to make sure it doesn’t happen again. We were so close, and the team we had was good enough to get to the final and win it.”
The Rhinos – who finished the regular campaign in fifth position – went on to lift the Super League silverware for a second successive season to claim the champions tag. They are now preparing for another World Club Challenge showdown against Melbourne.
And Hansen has questioned whether the play-off format needs to be tinkered with to provide further incentives to teams finishing higher up the ladder at the end of the 27-round regular campaign.
“Personally I think there’s a lot they need to change,” said Hansen. “Look at us last year, we worked hard to finish in top spot and we hardly got anything for it.
“At the end of the day, we had plenty of opportunities we didn’t take against Leeds. and they played a smart game.
“But to be consistent and finish top, it’s a kick in the teeth not to reach the final because Leeds only turned it on in the last five games.
“Good on them for doing it – but it makes you think, ‘What’s the point of working your backside off during the season, you might as well wait to the the play-offs?’.
“There should be more incentive. In my opinion, you finish top you play ‘first versus second’ and you’re straight to the Grand Final, that way it’d make it more competitive during the season to finish (high up the ladder).”
Hansen, preparing for his 10th season in the first-team, reports that new-boys Blake Green and Scott Taylor have settled in well.
“Scott’s hungry to do well, and Blake’s a typical Aussie – he’s slotted straight in like he’s been here five years,” he added.