There is no time for Shaun Wane to dwell on last week’s Challenge Cup exit as the race to the play-offs starts tomorrow.
But the Wigan coach won’t be content just with picking up the pieces from a shattered Wembley dream – there are still opportunities to make this season memorable for the right reasons.
An undercurrent throughout Wigan’s season has been the injury curse which has tried its best to derail the side’s season – much as it did for Leeds Rhinos who are facing a final chapter to the season fighting for their top flight survival.
But Warriors, rarely looking anything near full-strength in 2016, have stayed in touch with the top of the table.
And Wane thinks winning the League Leaders’ Shield, a prize not celebrated with the same party-fuelled frenzy as the other two trophies, would represent one of his most satisfying achievements.
Speaking at the Super 8s launch last week, the Wigan boss said: “You look at the prize money which is really important but I’ve always looked at the Shield as one of the main trophies.
“I always bang on about being consistent throughout the year and we’ve got seven games to prove ourselves, so hopefully we will be up there.
“Everyone knows roughly what’s gone on but in a working sense as a club, we’ve done it the tough way.”
While a home clash with Wakefield may not seem the most glamourous way to open the Super 8s, it is the perfect way for the Warriors coach to show his side can bounce back from the disappointment of missing out on Wembley on many fronts.
Sitting six points above fifth-placed Catalans with 14 left to play for, five wins from the seven 8s games will guarantee a place in the Super League semi-finals, assuming the French club win all their games.
So this week would be an ideal time to start.
Wakefield have beaten Wigan once this season and ran them close last month – so this is an opportunity to set the record straight.
Frustrations are bubbling after three straight losses including a Challenge Cup exit – but after the defeat to Hull FC last Friday, Wane admitted they will use the hurt from missing out on Wembley to fuel their Grand Final ambitions.
“We’ll use that as a real strength to come back and make sure that doesn’t happen against Wakefield because we have a few of those tough games coming up now,” he said.
On paper, tomorrow’s clash should be easier to call than Wigan’s last two outings, against St Helens and Hull FC.
Wakefield start the Super 8s in eighth place, playing catch up to keep their play-off hopes alive, rather than to consolidate them, while third-placed Wigan look to hit the summit of the table.
But with both sides reeling from semi-final defeats, and with Chris Chester sparking a Super League revival at Trinity since taking over in March, Wane is expecting a fiery start to the second phase of the season.
“They’ve pushed us close this year when we were absolutely busted, but we won the game in the end,” he said of the 22-18 win at the DW in July.
“By the time the game comes around, they will have played Warrington in their Challenge Cup semi-final, so we’ll both be in a similar situation, which is the way it should be.
“It’s at home as well so I’m looking forward to that, but Chris Chester has got them playing really well, so I just want to make sure we start well in the Super 8s – that’s the important thing.”