The 2017 season is just over a week away, so I though I’d take a look at the 2016 Grand Final Champions, Wigan Warriors, and see how they will get on in the upcoming Super League season.
Last season placing
League: 2nd after the Super8s (Grand Final Winners)
Challenge Cup: Semi-Finalists (Lost 16-12 to Hull FC)
If you look at what Wigan accomplished last season, without knowing the ins and outs of the season, it would seem like a pretty solid campaign. They finished second in the league after the Super 8s, were semi-finalists in the Challenge Cup where they lost to the eventual winners, Hull FC and finally would go on to win the Grand Final, beating Warrington Wolves 12-6. So, on the outside looking in, you would say that Wigan had a solid season, and they wouldn’t have much to improve on to stay on top in 2017.
However, last season, Wigan Warriors won the Grand Final against all odds. They lost key player after player and had to use the extent of their squad last season to get by. One week they lost 62-0 away to Wakefield when they struggled to even name a squad. Wane will be looking forward to watching his side this season, as they welcome back so many players and look stronger than ever.
If you were to ask Wane what they must improve on from last season, to make this year a great one. He would simply say, to win the lot. He would want nothing more than to go and win the treble this season. Wigan haven’t been to Wembley since the 2013 Challenge Cup Final, and they will be working hard this season to correct that for sure. I think the final league position will be the last thing on Wane’s mind, behind winning the Grand Final and Challenge Cup. If you can finish top after the Super 8s, then that’s a nice little bonus.
Joe Burgess: With his return from the NRL, Joe Burgess will be looking to continue from where he left off in 2015. He scored 22 tries and made it into the 2015 Super League Dream Team. He scored two tries on his return in a pre-season friendly away at Catalan Dragons. Wigan will need him to step up and get the tries after losing Josh Charnley to Sale Sharks and Dom Manfredi out injured for a long part of the season.
John Bateman: Last season was a strange one for John Bateman. He made a great start to the year, being Wigan’s most influential player and looking an early favorite for Man of Steel. However, after an incident away from the field, he was suspended by the club and would go on to miss 10 games. Bateman will have a point to prove this season, and I think he will go on to win the Man of Steel in 2017.
George Williams: It’s been a good couple of season for George Williams. In 2015 he finished the season with 20 assists and eight tries, then followed it up last season with 18 assists and 12 tries. This season he starts a new partnership with the returning Thomas Leuluai, and I’m sure he’ll be salivating at the prospect. 2017 is a big year for Williams, everyone now knows how good he is, and it’s now up to him to show his worth.
Story of 2017
The only good news story for Wigan Warriors this season would be to go on and win the lot. Wigan were poor last season, and somehow managed to win the Grand Final, it still amazes me to this day how they won it. But Shaun Wane knows how good of a side he has there at Wigan, in my opinion, the best squad in Super League. He will want nothing more than to go and win the treble, or at least the Grand Final and Challenge Cup.
Wane expects nothing less from his side but to win trophies, and he knew last season was a miracle considering the injuries they had. But this season, while they will be without Sam Tomkins, Dom Manfredi and Michael McIlorum for a while, they have a very strong squad that can go on and do some real damage in Super League this coming season.
League Table: 2nd
Challenge Cup: Winners
Top try scorer: Joe Burgess
Top points scorer: Morgan Escaré
Player of the Year: John Bateman