‘Best squad in over ten years’: Ian Lenagan throws down the gauntlet at Wigan Warriors

WIGAN WARRIORS owner and Chairman Ian Lenagan believes Matt Peet has the best squad the club has produced since 2010 as they aim for their first Grand Final win since 2018.

Peet guided the Warriors to their first Challenge Cup win since 2013 last season when they beat Huddersfield Giants at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

They were defeated by Leeds Rhinos in the Super League semi-final, however, and since then they have lost the likes of John Bateman to the NRL, Jake Bibby and Sam Halsall to Huddersfield and Ollie Partington to Salford, while Tommy Leuluai has retired and joined the coaching staff.

They have recruited Jake Wardle, Toby King and Ryan Hampshire, however, while Mike Cooper will be looking to kick on after joining midway through last season. 

Despite the relative paucity of their recruitment, Lenagan is confident that Peet’s class of 2023 is one of the best the club has had – even better than the double-winning side of 2013.

“The expectation always with Wigan is that we win,” said Lenagan.

“I have always believed that from the moment I walked through the door at Wigan.”

“From 2010 onwards, we average pretty close to one trophy a season of the three on offer. Over the last few years, we have not averaged that, but lockdown was somewhat different from normal.

“We are back on that track, so Wigan’s aspirations are the same on the field and that is to win. I would love us to win the Grand Final this year. We came close a couple of years ago and we won the Challenge Cup last season. Whether it’s the League Leaders, Grand Final or Challenge Cup, we will be going for everything we can possibly win on the field. 

“If you actually look at our squad, I believe this is the best squad I have had in over ten years. You look at the two wingmen who are very quick – we have Bevan French and there is Jai Field at the back, who in my opinion should have won the Man of Steel trophy. 

“For the first time ever, we have two quality English centres and that makes a big difference. Harry (Smith) and Cade Cust are developing hand over fist at halfback. When you look at the forwards, we have filled the gap of bigger, heavier and older forwards and we have added to them the development of people like Morgan Smithies, Liam Byrne and Ethan Havard.”

Lenagan admits that he was delighted by how quickly Matty Peet adapted to his new role as head coach.

“We were very happy with the first year (under Peet), which was even better than we expected,” he said. 

“The only thing that surprised me about Matt was the quality of his post-match interviews. They resonated with both journalists and fans separately. I think that was the only surprise.

“We were very confident when he took over as head coach that he would do it well.

“I wasn’t surprised he was successful and I was pleased it was in year one. I was only surprised by the quality of his speaking after games.”