Super League Preview: Wigan Warriors

Transfers

In: John Bateman (Canberra), Jai Field (Parramatta).

Out: Morgan Escare, Joe Burgess, Jack Wells (all Salford), Harry Rushton (Canberra), Craig Mullen, Ben Flower (both Leigh), Joe Greenwood (Huddersfield), Chris Hankinson (London), Nathan Wilde (Newcastle), Max Roberts, James Barran, Ben Holcroft (all Oldham), Sean O’Loughlin (retired).

Warriors out to go one better

Wigan Warriors’ new club captain Thomas Leuluai is ‘honoured’ to have been given the armband for the 2021 season after the long-serving Kiwi scrum-half succeeded the retired Sean O’Loughlin.

The former England skipper retired at the end of last season having worn the armband at the DW Stadium since 2006, with Leuluai tasked with the job.

He is one of the most decorated players in the game, having won a World Club Challenge, two Super League titles, a Challenge Cup and three League Leaders’ Shields in the cherry and white.

After playing 302 games for the Warriors, the scrum half will be the most experience player in the 2021 squad as he heads into his 11th year at the club.

“I am honoured to be named the club captain,” said former World Cup winner Leuluai.

“It’s something I’ve never really chased or thought about, but at this stage of my career I understand the responsibility that goes along with it. I’m really privileged and honoured to be able to do the job.

“I understand the duty that goes with it. With my age and experience, I’m really happy to fulfil the role for them. I won’t really change too much in what I’ve been doing and how I go about my stuff.”

On taking over the role from O’Loughlin, Leulaui added: “Sean has been my captain for the majority of my career.

“I feel lucky to have had him as my captain – I learned so much off him in the way he leads and the way he is as a person. I’ll be trying to mirror what he has done.”

And Warriors supporters will be delighted to see John Bateman back at the club, with the back rower having the ability to not only take Wigan, but the whole of Super League, by the scruff of the neck.

The England star is back after a stellar stint in the NRL with Canberra Raiders, where he established himself as arguably the world’s best back rower. Listen to some and you could be forgiven for thinking, ‘What is the point? The NRL is that much better.’

But having experienced every side Down Under, he knows that on the field there are dozens of players here that could easily cope.

Bateman said: “If I’m honest with you, that was the one big thing I realised when I was over there.

“You’re just another body. They all have arms, they all have legs. Over there, people are paid more money so straight away they’re looked at that as being better.

“But I played against players that were playing regularly in first teams when there are players here that could easily do the exact same job. It makes you realise they’re not levels above us.”

Prediction

The Warriors will be looking to dust themselves off after the most dramatic of defeats in last season's Grand Final.

Last season's League Leaders Shield winners will be hoping to go one better this time around, the acquisition of two NRL stars in the form of the returning John Bateman and young half-back Jai Fields should bolster those prospects.

On paper, the Warriors have one of, if not the strongest squad in the league, and they should run the Saints close.

But we've got Kristian Woolf's men pipping them. Just.

VAVEL Predicts - 2nd

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