Joe Bretherton heads into the New Year in buoyant mood after enjoying a campaign which surpassed all expectations.
The prop made 13 appearances for Wigan last season – more than any of the seven other academy-products who debuted in 2016.
His tally included the 28-18 win against Hull FC in the Super League semi-final, though he was forced out of the Old Trafford squad by the return of Ben Flower from suspension.
He said: “At this stage a year ago, I thought I may get three or four games, but I got 13 including two semi-finals - I have a 50 per cent success rate in those!
“I didn’t expect to be picked ahead of Benny for the final, so it wasn’t a shock, but it was a good experience to be a part of the squad – I played in the semi so I felt like I helped get us there.”
Bretherton profited from the absence of experienced forwards Joel Tomkins and Tony Clubb, who missed large spells through injury.
Their return to the fold has convinced him competition for places will be even fiercer, despite the fact two props have left (Dom Crosby and Lee Mossop) and there is only one newcomer (Romain Navarrete).
“Competition is going to be tougher, because we’ve got more players back,” said the 21-year-old.
“But that’s good for everyone, you’ve got to be better than the others to get in the team. Hopefully I’ll get a couple of games early on and prove myself.”
The Wigan players are currently enjoying a week’s break for Christmas, and report back for training on January 2.
They have senior friendlies at Leigh on January 22, and Catalans six days later.
“The pre-season has been different to last year, in a good way,” added Bretherton.
“Because we won, everyone has enjoyed it more, we’re more confident.
“There’s not been an army camp either, which everyone is buzzing about!”