LEEDS coach Brian McDermott said Wigan have a bright future and are tough opponents after Saturday’s Grand Final.
After masterminding Leeds’ 22-20 win at Old Trafford, celebrations kicked-off around him, tired players embraced and Instagram was getting its first snaps of the Super League trophy.
But the Leeds coach knew his side had been in a bruising battle against Shaun Wane’s Warriors – containing 11 academy products - and praised his opposite number.
“That’s their third Grand Final on the bounce they haven’t got a whole host of overseas either,” McDermott said.
“They have some young British lads and they have got something going for them there. I know it gets mentioned a fair bit but not sure it’s appreciated that Shaun Wane’s made some big calls on not recruiting overseas and sticking with his young halves and some young British people that’s to be commended.”
As well as applauding Wane’s recruitment policies, McDermott acknowledged Wigan’s strengths on the pitch.
It was Wane’s call to hand George Williams, then a teenager, a starting slot when there was pressure to bring in a high profile No.6 pre-season, and the 20-year-old never looked out of place in the Grand Final.
Williams has earned the Young Player of the Year Award as well as an England call-up for his efforts this season, and McDermott thinks Wigan’s strength goes even deeper.
“They are a tough bunch,” he said.
“It wasn’t a damp squib of a game and at times like that that these fellas will tell you they were pushed beyond where they thought they could go.
“It means even more to do against such strong team. They gave it everything.”
Another indicator of how harsh a ride Wigan gave Leeds on Saturday was how McDermott reflected on his own team following the final hooter.
While many were hailing an achievement which is being billed as Leeds’ greatest season ever, the Rhinos coach described a shattered and relieved side behind closed doors.
“It’s won through endeavour and will and determination just toughness,” he explained.
Having wintnessed a fairytale end for Jamie Peacock, Kevin Sinfield and Kylie Leuluai, after Wigan threatened to spoil the party, McDermott said: “I think all three are irreplaceable.
“Before we start we need to say JP Kev Kylie are not going to be replaced – it’s about starting afresh and people coming in to take their shirts, start their chapter and their career.”