2021 will present its own new challenges for Wigan Warriors, but when it comes to plugging the gaps of their pack, Ethan Havard is hoping that the club’s youthful faces will make their presence known as the Cherry and Whites face the changing of the guard.
Though John Bateman’s return from Canberra will help fill the void left by Sean O’Loughlin’s talismanic presence on the pitch, Adrian Lam’s side have seen a host of other forwards bid their farewells to the DW Stadium.
But with the exit of seasoned stalwarts like Ben Flower and big-impact names like George Burgess, the 20-year-old Havard, one of a host of Academy graduates to enjoy a breakout season on the way to the League Leaders’ Shield last term, feels that he and the rest of the club’s young guns can seize the chance to shine.
“We’ve got a great bond between usfrom growing up together, playing together, and I think it reflects on the field,” says the prop, who played for Wigan off the bench against Leigh on Friday night.
“We’ve worked hard for each other and we’ll train hard together. We’re taking on the baton from the older lads now and we want to make a stand for ourselves.”
Havard, who was born in the Bulgarian capital Sofia but is an England academy graduate, featured from the off for the Warriors last year, and was steadily building up steam before an ankle knock sidelined him in the autumn as teams approached the run-in to the 2020 campaign.
“It’s not nice to be injured, but I stayed positive, did plenty of rehab, and I’m back fit now, looking forward to a good season,” says Havard.
Having been robbed of a live audience for much of last year, will the return of fans in the coming months feed into the energy of the squad’s greener members?
“I think we’ll really get a buzz off the crowd,” he says.
“We’re not used to playing in front of big groups, so closed-door games have been a good time to get experience without that factor, but we’re looking forward to experiencing it again.”
The transition of O’Loughlin from on-field general to a trusted figure within Lam’s coaching setup has also proved a massive boost to the up-and-coming generation of talent.
“Lammy always tells us to keep our feet grounded and focus on the little things, which I think is essential. Lockers joining the staff has been great; we’ve got a good set of coaches around us.”
Havard’s personal targets are simple. He wants to end the season as a vital part of the Warriors’ squad as a fixed presence.
“I want to be in the team every week and I want to be a starting number. I’d like some silverware at the end of the year, that’s always the goal. I just need to be disciplined in everything I do, and I need to learn to read the game a little better this year too.”
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