Lee Briers on going from villain to Wigan Warriors hero!

Having spent most of his career being berated by Wigan supporters, Lee Briers admits he can’t wait for the boot to be on the other foot from now on.

Wednesday, 13th October 2021, 4:05 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th October 2021, 4:06 pm
Lee Briers

Having spent most of his career being berated by Wigan supporters, Lee Briers admits he can’t wait for the boot to be on the other foot from now on.

And the Warrington legend – a constant thorn in Wigan’s side during his glittering playing career – can’t wait to sprinkle some magic dust over the Warriors playing squad, in his new role of assistant coach alongside Sean O’Loughlin.

Even if it will take some time to get his head round.

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“It’s strange being here, but I have to say it’s also given me goosebumps,” recognised the 43-year-old, who started his career at St Helens.

“I’ve not even thought what it’s going to be like to come up against Warrington.

“I think whichever club I’d have gone to, it would be strange after 25 years there.

“It’s still a massive part of my life, and I’m always going to be linked to the club no matter where I go.

“But at the same time, I’m a professional and, as much as I love Warrington, Wigan’s my number one now.

“And I’ll be putting every single ounce of effort into ensuring we win far more games than we lose.”

On his long-time role as tormentor in chief of Wigan, Briers allows himself a wry smile.

“Even though I’ve been a thorn in Wigan’s side over the years, I like to think it’s all borne out of respect,” he said.

“Look, this is a massive club – an absolutely massive club.

“If you’d asked most Warrington players from my time there, which was their favourite away ground, they’d say Wigan on a Friday night.

“It was nice we got to win some, but that didn’t really matter.

“It was the atmosphere, the intensity, the crowd...and it’s going to be nice to have all that on my side from now on.”

After a quarter of a century as a ‘Wolf’, Briers admits he found himself with a big decision to make after learning he would not be part of Daryl Powell’s staff moving forward.

A decision that didn’t end up taking too long.

“There’s only so many jobs in this country,” recognised Briers, who has previously worked with Peet with the England Academy.

“I turned down a job in rugby union last week, it just didn’t feel like the right time to have a look over there.

“I’d been talking to Leigh, and I was pretty far down the line to going to the NRL, which didn’t end up materialising because of this opportunity.

“It’s like public buses – nothing and then a few come along at once!

“The first meeting was on the Wednesday with Kris (Radlinski) and Matty (Peet).

“I met the chairman (Ian Lenagan) on the Saturday, and by the Monday there was a contract offer.

“This just felt right. It felt right to come here and I’m really looking forward to this challenge.”

Briers arrives during a transition period for Wigan, who have had a lean three years since Shaun Wane’s departure following Grand Final glory in 2018.

Wane has returned as part of the new-look backroom staff, and Briers is well aware of the huge challenges ahead.

Warriors scored the fewest number of points last year in Super League, and Briers says improving the attack is top of his mission statement.

“That’s going to be a massive part of our challenge going forward” he said.

“We want to make Wigan entertaining again, and successful again.

“It’s not going to happen overnight, we all understand the hard work that it’s going to involve.

“But looking at the squad, it’s really exciting how many young kids are in there.

“When you’re working with good, young kids, they’re like sponges in taking stuff on board.

“Hopefully we can make a good impression on them and help them take the club on.

“I’m in the process of reading Rob Burrow’s book, and it kind of reminds me of the young core of players Leeds had.

“I don’t want to put too much pressure on and say they’re going to emulate what Leeds did, but it’s a young squad with so much potential.

“And with youth, you also get enthusiasm, and energy, and all they need is guidance.”

Not that getting the attack to click is all going to fall at Briers’ door.

“It’s going to come down to all three of us,” the former Wales international added.

“Matty will obviously have the final say on how he wants to play, but we’d be lying if we said we didn’t want to play entertaining rugby.

“If we do have an attractive style, though, that won’t be down to Lee Briers, any more than if we’re defending well it’s all down to Sean O’Loughlin.

“Why would I just be an attack coach and Sean be defence, when he was probably the best attacking forward that has probably played our game?

“We would be daft not to tap into that. And for myself, when you have been told for 16 years that you can’t tackle, you kind of pick up how to defend and how systems work.

“There is a lot of knowledge between the three of us – four if you include Shaun Wane.

“We will be dipping in and out of everything and making sure everything is aligned to make Wigan successful.”

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