Wigan Warriors: The 18th Man - '2022 just got very exciting indeed...'
Our panel of Warriors experts assess the appointment of Matty Peet, the arrival of Lee Briers...and the return of Shaun Wane...
Is Matty Peet the right appointment as Wigan head coach?
Robert Kenyon: Only time will tell if he’s the right appointment. He has done well through every other age group at Wigan, and our defence certainly improved when he returned from Sale. But if I’m honest, after Adrian Lam’s tenure I wanted a more experienced coach. I suppose having Shaun Wane back at the club, and Sean O’Loughlin alongside Peet, aswell as Briers – who I assume will focus on our attack – then on paper there’s no reason to think it won’t work. Like I said, a few seasons at a Championship club under Peet’s belt first would have helped.
Sean Lawless: The announcement of Matty Peet, on the face of it, feels underwhelming. But the reality is it’s exactly what Wigan need. The past season has shown Wigan need to press the reset button on their culture, for the first time since 2010, and Peet is the right man to get that where it needs to be. Having his mentor at Robin Park in the guise of Shaun Wane will be a lift at times during the season, not only for Peet but also the players. The likes of Zak Hardaker, Liam Farrell and John Bateman know their World Cup spots are going to be scrutinised every day. Peet spoke incredibly well in his first press conference. He knows what is important to Wigan fans, and I back him to get it right.
Jon Lyon: Only time will tell. I just don’t understand any negativity at this stage. Matty has the job and we all need to get behind him and the team and give him the chance to show what impact he can have. He’s got a talented support team alongside him and has plenty experience of his own, so let’s see what he can do. It’s not necessarily about winning trophies, although that’s obviously the ultimate objective. I think most fans are just hoping for better luck with injuries, a more consistent team getting onto the pitch together, and seeing us hopefully playing some more cohesive, attacking rugby. If Matty can achieve that then hopefully success won’t be too far away.
Ste Ford: I don’t think anyone really knows. I hope he is but only time will tell. Unless there are some late and unexpected signings, the squad looks out of balance and at centre and half back. The quality and back-up available look like weak spots that will become major issues if there are any long-term injuries during the season. I am pretty sure Peet will be an improvement on Lam, then again Ian Millward would be an improvement on Lam. I wish Peet well and I hope he can significantly improve our performances, as I fear our attendances next year will be woeful unless there is a significant improvement in the quality of rugby on display.
Darren Wrudd: Yes indeed he is! Matt Peet has worked hard, studied hard and learned his craft by his diligent observation and actions. He commands such respect from his peers and will bring his own style of coaching to the first team here at Wigan. Surround that man with the quality of staff that he has and there is a bubbling recipe for success. I am so happy for Matt, having watched his success at each level of his developing career it is the right time for him to take the reins and push on to develop this squads potential and convert it to a winning formula. I wish him the very best of personal success and hope the fans can see just what a special choice this is for our club.
What are your thoughts on Lee Briers - so often the scourge of Wigan during his playing days - becoming a Warrior?
Robert Kenyon: Lee Briers was a player I loved to hate, but that to me is the sign of a good opposition player. He has a rugby brain and was a cavalier when he played, he has a good old-school, free-flowing rugby mentality, and that’s what I like. So if his style of rugby brushes off onto our players then I’ll be happy. Having Briers work alongside Harry Smith should pay dividends.
Sean Lawless: The appointment of Lee Briers feels like a return to the appointment of Iestyn Harris and Paul Deacon, two very successful appointments for Wigan. Although Ian Lenagan was clear in his press conference that there is no attack and defence coach – all assistants are expected to work on all aspects on the game – there is no denying Briers will be at Wigan to get a better form and consistency of attack. The one area in which I am really excited to see Briers work is the mentoring of Harry Smith. With the advice and guidance of Briers, I think Smith can take his game and in particular his kicking game to another level – a shrewd appointment by Wigan.
Jon Lyon: If I’m being honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of his as a player, and I feel his reputation has been romanticised since he retired. His ability didn’t match the adulation he received from Warrington’s fans. For me, too much of his game was kicking-based, which is sadly the way the game seems to be headed, and defensively he was very weak, which for me is the reason he didn’t get more international recognition. All those England coaches can’t have been wrong! I am prepared to admit, though, that maybe that’s the cherry and white bias in me. Maybe I’ve downplayed him as a player because he wasn’t one of ours. Either way, I’m more than prepared to give him the chance to see what he can do as a coach. Anything we can do to improve our attack has to be welcomed, and him being a rival in the past doesn’t matter anymore. If nothing else, we know he’ll be desperate to finally get a Grand Final win!
Ste Ford: Again unsure really. You don’t hear many Wire fans bemoaning his departure, nor did you ever hear them say how great Briers was as a coach. I’m hoping he will bring some new ideas and help freshen up the attack, and work with young Smith in putting his career back on track after a really testing season for him.
Darren Wrudd: Lee Briers is one of those players you loved to hate. It’s the biggest compliment an opposing fan can give as it shows just how good he was and what a threat his rugby brain created as both a player and later an assistant coach down the road at Warrington. I think I am correct in saying we scored fewer average points than any other team this year while remaining in fourth spot, that means our defence is pretty solid and committed. However, it felt that if our last home defeat had gone on an extra hour or two, we would still have struggled to score. This is what Briers can examine and I know his first chats with the club were all about developing our kicking game and attacking flair. Some structural changes in our attacking line could bring a new exciting style of play to the DW and Lee is the man to bring it on.
Are you happy to see Shaun Wane back at the club, and what impact will he have?
Robert Kenyon: It’s good to have Wane back in the capacity he is returning. I’m sure if there are issues or advice Peet wants, Wane is on hand to guide him. Wane will hopefully be able to persuade aspiring England players to sign here rather than with a rival. I’d like Wane to get involved with player signings especially in the forwards.
Sean Lawless: Shaun Wane is Wigan, he is the Wigan that the club needs to get back to being, and I am really pleased to see him in a new role. A return to his previous role of head coach would have the danger of unravelling the legacy of his first stint here. In this role, Wane gets to have input where and when it is needed, across the club. We have seen Wane turn into a highly commended public speaker, a trait that will be key for Wigan as they look to bring new sponsors to the club, he holds the gravitas of being the England head coach – a sure attraction for new players to want come to Wigan and attempt to impress him. Ultimately, Wane offers that continuum of the Wigan culture which he helped to create back in 2010 under Michael Maguire. Wigan need that cultural reset and need to aim for success in the 150th anniversary year – or sesquicentennial for those, like Matty Peet, with an English degree!
Jon Lyon: I am delighted to see Shaun back at the club. No-one loves this club more than Waney and his passion shines through. He loves bringing local lads through, which is something supporters love to see. He has a winning mentality and all the experience to support Matty Peet where needed. My only concern would be if we weren’t to start next season well – I suspect it wouldn’t take long for the calls to come for Wane to take over. Hopefully Matty will be given time to put his stamp on the team, and Waney will focus on his specific role as well as that of still coaching the England team ahead, hopefully, of the World Cup.
Ste Ford: I’m glad to see him back in a much broader role, because the problems within the club stretch across all levels of management, and Shaun is the perfect guy to sort these issues out. I’m certain he will support Peet without him looking over his shoulder every five minutes too Man management is his key strength, and having him back can only be a positive.
Darren Wrudd: We are all well versed in just what the Wigan club means to Shaun Wane and at the same time what that man means to us. His achievements as a player and coach must be second to none and whilst he is known as a tough and uncompromising taskmaster, he also understands the need to look after his staff and players on every level. I was once privileged to have a personal audience before a game with Shaun who showed just what detail and efforts went in to preparing his players and his understanding of the minute technical details of our game was both impressive and eye opening. He can only add to the high quality standards of this club and completes the most exciting line-up we have seen here in my memory. 2022 just got very exciting indeed.
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