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Super League: Will Wigan's gamble pay off in milestone year?

While Adrian Lam guided the Wigan Warriors to one Grand Final during his tenure, it is safe to say his spell in charge did not pan out as the club had hoped.

The Cherry and Whites last lifted the Grand Final trophy in 2018 and they have been unable to repeat the same success they had under now-England coach Shaun Wane.

Lam helped Wigan win the League Leaders' Shield in 2020, but they could not stop local rivals, St Helens, from winning the Grand Final.

While his reputation with the club's fans is still strong thanks to his playing days, the Papua New Guinean's final campaign in charge ended in disappointment. The club broke unwanted records and decided that it was time for a fresh start, with Matt Peet promoted to head coach in what is the club's 150th year.

Wigan's decision to mix things up could well be a stroke of genius, but they have put a lot on the line as they try to stop Saints from making history by becoming the first club to win four successive Grand Finals.

Peet to be given a helping hand

Peet is no stranger to the DW Stadium, having spent the last 13 years with the Cherry and Whites.

After starting his coaching career in the amateur game, he joined Wigan in 2008 and he has since helped develop some of the club's brightest young prospects.

Peet was employed as the Under-18s coach in 2011, working alongside the likes of Ryan Sutton, Oliver Gildart, George Williams and Lewis Tierney. His academy side won the Grand Final six times in seven years before he tried his hand at rugby union with Sale.

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His decision to return as an assistant coach in 2019 helped him understand the pressure at the highest level in Super League, but the club have put good people around him ahead of his maiden campaign.

England boss Wane will help in a "leadership role" while Sean O'Loughlin and Lee Briers have joined as assistant coaches.

The quartet have years of experience at the highest level and the club's board hope they will be the ideal mix as they chase another Grand Final success at odds of 11/2.

Peet and co could offer the perfect blend

Peet's academy achievements deserve respect and Wigan are well known for their homegrown talent pool. The Warriors have never been afraid of blooding youngsters, so who better to bring them through than Peet?

In the off-season, Wigan lost halfback Jackson Hastings, while Oliver Gildart joined Hastings at Wests Tigers in the NRL. Wigan have put their trust in Cade Cust, 14/1 to be crowned Man of Steel, who decided to leave the Manly Sea Eagles, while veteran Thomas Leuluai remains at the club as their No.7.

The Warriors are taking a gamble or two with their approach, but things do not look too bad in a transition year.

ClubNumber of Super League titlesWinning Years
St Helens91996, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2014, 2019, 2020, 2021
Leeds Rhinos82004, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017
Wigan Warriors51998, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2018
Bradford Bulls41997, 2001, 2003, 2005

Peet's expertise comes in defence, where he can tap into O'Loughlin's knowledge, who was one of the best defenders during his playing days.

Briers needs no introduction and his ability with the ball in hand helped Warrington Wolves for the best part of a decade.

Wigan's attack only managed to score 72 tries in 2021, 40 fewer than Catalans Dragons, but Briers was known for his creativity. If he can give any guidance to the club's new halfback pairing, then the club could be in for a fun year.

Patience is needed from DW faithful

Wigan's supporters are used to success and failure is not something the club's fanbase accepts.

While that puts pressure on Peet, as a local, he knows all about the club's expectations.

It will come as no surprise that multiple pundits are backing St Helens to win a fourth Grand Final, while after a busy off-season, both Leeds Rhinos and Warrington Wolves are expected to be up there challenging alongside Catalans Dragons.

That might be tough for Wigan to take, but it could work in their favour. In years gone by, the Cherry and Whites were installed as one of the two favourites for silverware, but Peet and his men can go about their business quietly.

After a rough few years, the Warriors need to start showing promise, and while a Grand Final crown might be a step too far, the next ten months could be crucial in laying some essential foundations.

Wigan open their campaign against Hull KR on Friday, and at 4/7, they are expected to pick up two points.

The Robins, priced at 11/8, were the surprise package in 2021 and if Peet's side can put them in their place, who knows what it could do for their confidence levels for the rest of the campaign?

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