Rugby League World says
If anyone can emulate St Helens’ recent era of dominance in Super League, then surely it’s Wigan Warriors.
Matt Peet’s side were in extraordinary form throughout all of last season, crowning the year with a 10-2 victory over Catalans Dragons at Old Trafford, and with it ending Saints run of four consecutive titles.
With key players staying in key positions and crucial combinations still working well, there will be very little need for Peet to change what proved such a winning formula in 2023.
Reigning Man of Steel Bevan French is out of contract at the end of the season, but another winning year could prove all the encouragement he needs in joining Jai Field and Abbas Miski in signing on for the long term.
They will have the added pressure of the World Club Challenge to contend with this year, but that is early enough in the campaign to react in the right way no matter what the result.
Simply put, can anyone stop Wigan?
Three to watch
Bevan French is the reigning Man of Steel and currently Super League’s best player. A stellar talent unleashed fully at stand-off and still only 27 years old, whether he can continue and improve upon the best form of his career will go some way to determining whether any side can stop Wigan in 2024.
Brad O’Neill became Wigan’s undisputed first-choice hooker last season and now wears the number-nine jersey to go with it. But impressive as the 21-year-old was in contributing to their title success, he has fresh competition this year in the shape of England international Kruise Leeming, returning to Super League from a stint with Gold Coast.
Luke Thompson also returns to Super League after a stint in the NRL, his of almost four years compared to the six months of Leeming. Life wasn’t easy with a struggling Canterbury side but the prop will relish being a senior figure in a fast-developing Wigan pack – a sight fans of former club St Helens may struggle with!
Did you know?
Wigan might be the reigning Super League champions, but back in 1980-81, they were competing in the Second Division after being relegated alongside Hunslet, York and Blackpool Borough the season before. The Cherry and Whites came straight back up, but were beaten to the second-tier title by York.
1 Jai Field, 2 Abbas Miski, 3 Adam Keighran, 4 Jake Wardle, 5 Liam Marshall, 6 Bevan French, 7 Harry Smith, 8 Ethan Havard, 9 Brad O’Neill, 10 Liam Byrne, 11 Willie Isa, 12 Liam Farrell, 13 Kaide Ellis, 14 Mike Cooper, 15 Patrick Mago, 16 Luke Thompson, 17 Kruise Leeming, 19 Tyler Dupree, 20 Harvie Hill, 21 Junior Nsemba, 22 Sam Walters, 23 Ryan Hampshire, 24 Tiaki Chan, 25 Sam Eseh, 26 Zach Eckersley, 27 Tom Forber, 28 Jacob Douglas, 30 Jack Farrimond.
Liam Farrell needs 2 tries for 150 in his career…
Bevan French needs 10 appearances for 100 for the club…
Kruise Leeming needs 24 appearances for 200 in Super League…
Liam Marshall needs 11 tries for 150 in his career
RLW predicts: 1st
First published in Rugby League World magazine, Issue 492 (January 2024)