Wigan Warriors: The 18th man- Pre-season has been a vital cultural reset
Wigan Warriors fans have their say on all of the major talking points from this week.
The Super League campaign is edging closer and closer for Wigan Warriors.
Pre-season has left some fans excited for what is to come this year from Matty Peet's side, with two victories under their belt.
Here are the views of some of the fans:
It’s only pre-season but, as pre-seasons go, this has been a very successful one for Wigan.
There has been a calculated, consistent, and successful cultural reset by Wigan since the horror show of 2021 season came to an end. (Kris) Radlinski, (Matty) Peet and (Shaun) Wane have worked on the messaging for fans, with focus on the town, community, and the elements that get us behind the team.
First came the renewed engagement and then came the performances. The Newcastle friendly was a great opportunity to see those knocking on the door of the first team, and it was a very pleasing showing.
Junior Nsemba looks ready for first-team rugby already, he has the size, speed and presence to take an opportunity, should it come his way this season. Kai PearcePaul looks like a centre and, if he gets the opportunity to start the season in the backs against Hull KR, I don’t think he will be replaced.
Then came the Warrington game. A performance of great defence against consistent pressure due to the very skewed penalty count, a determined effort from all.
The attack looks exciting, we saw the supporting full-back, in the form of Jai Field, score two tries and bomb one by dropping the ball when all he needed to do was catch it and score. Patrick Mago, however– let’s talk about Paddy. If you are not excited by an offloading Kiwi, then you should be.
He looks ready to be the prop Wigan have been missing since, well, a long time.
A great pre-season by the club and the team...bring on Hull KR!
The difference between those two friendlies and the last three seasons is night and day. We finally look like a team with a plan and direction.
What was nice to see was the lesser spotted offload, which has been in hibernation and thought to have died out in these parts. It was a welcome return!
That leads onto who has excited me the most, and I’d have to say Mago. His body language sometimes suggests he’s tired, but he still keeps going. He’s maybe just lacking match fitness, but you can tell his pedigree as a forward, especially around the ruck.
Mago’s offloads are x-rated and very naughty with the way he’s been slipping them out from every angle.
Jai Field has also played well. I remember watching him for Parramatta, when Moses was injured, and knew his quality, so it’s good to see him playing in full flight.
(Iain) Thornley ran strong, (Cade) Cust looked busy against Warrington, and what about our young lads?
Eckersley looked like our best winger and Junior Nsemba is something we’ve lacked for some time – a strong-running back rower punching holes in the defensive line.
It feels like the longest closed season ever. I know we had a few games last year, but my rugby league fasting has gone on long enough.
So much has changed at the club and I think, more than usual, we have the right to feel very optimistic about the coming campaign. Our new head coach, Matty Peet, and his generals Sean O’Loughlin and Lee Briers are a magic mix of talents and high standards, which we had perhaps seen slip with Adrian Lam’s more relaxed approach.
No chance of that any more, with the commanding figure of Shaun Wane keeping the whole lot honest, and his presence alone would make me get fit again.
Ian Lenagan announced a new era of more entertaining rugby would be played under our fresh management and, until I watched the two preseason friendlies, I was not quite sure what to expect.
It seems our illustrious chairman was not merely looking for soundbites, and has joined with Kris Radlinski to help the club back on the road to success.
The first game we saw against Newcastle was a chance to see a few first-teamers stretch their legs, but more so the younger members of our club had a chance to shine– and did they shine.
Eyecatching performances from the likes of Jai Field, Patrick Mago and Kai Pearce-Paul would be half expected, but where on earth have we been hiding the young forward Junior Nsemba?
A simply superb performance, and if that lad keeps working to such a high standard, there are going to be some tough decisions for places as time goes on.
The Warrington game also threw up a couple of surprises, with some super interplay from Mago and Field to a mightily-impressive outing by Iain Thornley.
Peet commented there are things to improve, and one would no doubt be securing the highball and not letting it bounce, which full back Field let happen on several occasions.
A better team would have made us pay dearly.
Most of all I am excited about the style of play we are moving into. Faster play the balls and line speed is almost the Aussie way and is very hard to defeat.
Our freedom around the ruck and ball carriers breeds a support play which has players pushing through the line on all sides without over playing and forced errors.
Some teams have had great success with this over recent years, and I can see us taking some beating if we keep this attitude.
Our second half at Warrington was sprinkled with a few too many youngsters and
it showed in our ill-discipline. Saved only by our dedication to defend after the penalty count nearly had the pea blown out of the whistle.
I cannot see that being an issue with a full first-team squad on the field.
All in all, I cannot remember being so ready for a new season in many a year and the optimism those two games have given me has me chomping at the bit. I look forward to seeing you there as this is going to be some year.
It has been a long rugby-less four months, but Wigan are finally back in business. Two impressive pre-season performances against Newcastle and Warrington have left us with plenty to be excited about ahead of next week’s season opener at Hull KR.
A youth-heavy side made short work of Newcastle Thunder two weeks ago.
Sam Halsall’s hat-trick was the obvious highlight, but the performances of several youngsters showed Wigan’s first teamers will have to stay on top of their game to keep a place in the side.
Junior Nsemba showed great promise, while Patrick Mago has already shown he has a deft pair of hands with a keen eye for an offload that will prove a useful weapon this season.
Kai Pearce-Paul continued where he left off from last season, looking ready made for first-team rugby, shining in an unfamiliar centre role.
A much more experienced side shone against Warrington in a deserved testimonial for the classy Stefan Ratchford. Considering this was a first run-out for most of the team, the togetherness was outstanding, particularly in defence.
To hold the Wire to only one try, especially following such a barrage of secondhalf penalties from a referee seemingly intent on giving the home crowd the win they wanted, shows an outstanding team spirit built quickly by Matty Peet and his assistants.
A lightning quick Jai Field looked every inch the exciting prospect we thought he would be.
If he can stay injury free, he could easily have a similar impact this year to that of Bevan French previously.
Patrick Mago showed for the second game in a row, along with PearcePaul, that we have a great offload ability within the team.
And with Cust, Smith and Leuluai we have the halves to make the most of any second phase play they create.
Iain Thornley looked a much improved player from the last time we saw him in cherry and white, and his height either at wing or centre will prove invaluable in both attack and defence under the high ball.
Brad O’Neill looks a very lively back-up or support to Sam Powell and will keep the pressure on Powell, who is himself looking to earn a new contract for next year, and will need to be on top form.
The biggest plus from both games is just how much depth we have across the squad, with plenty of cover for all positions, and hopefully still the likes of French, Havard and Hardaker to come back at some point.
Injuries have decimated the side in recent years and derailed any chance of silverware, but we look much better equipped this time round. I am keen to see how James McDonnell goes on loan at Leigh.
He looked an outstanding prospect at the end of 2021, and hopefully some game time will set him up to return to Wigan and push for a first-team place.
Overall the team spirit and performances so far give every reason to suggest we could be in for a successful season.
Let’s get behind the boys right from the first whistle!
Thanks for reading. If you value what we do and are able to support us, a digital subscription is just £1 for your first month. Try us today by clicking here and viewing our offers.