SHAUN Wane is backing Ben Flower to become a firm fans’ favourite at Wigan – as he revealed the club beat two NRL outfits to his signature.
The Warriors’ off-season move for the relatively-unknown forward – when struggling Welsh outfit Crusaders withdrew from Super League – raised a few eyebrows.
But Wane says his capture was a significant coup, and revealed last night that the 24-year-old was in hot demand.
The coach said: “We had to put a sell on Ben, because there were two NRL clubs going hard for him and a few Super League clubs wanted him too.
“We had to go down to Wales and meet him and then we showed him around our club and the training ground. We sold the club well because he had a lot of choices, and I see getting him on board here as a real coup for us.
“He’s since said to me that he’s so glad he made the choice he did.”
Wane was first alerted to Flower’s talents when he started working as Michael Maguire’s right-hand man in 2010.
“When I was assistant coach I did clips on all the opponents’ individuals, what they did well, what they didn’t do well, areas we could exploit,” said Wane.
“And Ben always stood out as a nuggety, tough player.
“It was hard to find flaws in his game. He runs hard, he works hard, he’s alert – when he was at Crusaders, I’d talk about him and tell my players that we need to get bodies in front because he runs hard.
“When he became available I really wanted him here.”
Flower, who played at loose forward for Wales in last season’s Four Nations, will strengthen the competition for places in the prop positions in 2012. And Wane has not been disappointed with what he’s seen so far.
“All the new lads have done well, but Ben especially,” said Wane.
“He’s learning our systems and he’s made errors along the way, but it shows his character that he enjoys being under pressure and he wants to get better.
“He’s constantly in my office asking for help on what he can do. He’s terrific.” Flower, who faced Hull KR a week ago, is in line for his second appearance for the Warriors in tomorrow night’s trip to Salford.
Wane plans to roll out the big-guns for their third, and final, pre-season match, having blooded several young players in the games against the Robins and Huddersfield.
Sam Tomkins and George Carmont are set for their first taste of action this year while Wane is expected to include the likes of Pat Richards, Brett Finch, Gareth Hock and Sean O’Loughlin.
The game – at Salford’s new stadium – kicks-off at 8pm. Tickets are on sale from the DW up until 4pm today, priced £15 adults, £10 concessions and £5 Under-16s.
An Under-20s side will then take on Leigh this Friday.