Opposition Overview: Wigan Warriors

Picture by Jack Wray/Super League Europe/via SWpix.com - 06/03/2021 - Super League Season 2021 Pre Season Location Video Shoot and Stills Photography Portraits. Wigan Warriors - John Bateman

Leeds Rhinos return to action in the Betfred Super League in one of the headline games of the year, taking on Adrian Lam’s Wigan Warriors at Emerald Headingley on Thursday, kick off 7:45pm.

Don’t miss Thursday’s game which is live on Sky Sports Arena, kick off 7.45pm.


2021 so far..

Following on from lifting the League Leader’s Shield and a Grand Final appearance in 2020, Wigan Warriors have started the new season strongly once again and are tipped to go a step further than last year.

The return of John Bateman to the club, as well as the high profile signing of Jai Field, bolstered a squad that remains largely unchanged from 2020, after key players Jackson Hastings and Bevan French penned deals to keep them at the club. Wigan also secured the services of head coach Adrian Lam for another year, after he lifted the Coach of the Year award.

Like the Rhinos, Wigan started the season with a number of their Academy products named in the matchday seventeen. One notable inclusion has been winger Umyla Hanley, son of Leeds and Wigan legend Ellery, who has made a strong start to the new season and his matchup against the likes of Jack Broadbent and Alex Sutcliffe is one to watch out for. Prop Ethan Havard is another young talent who has made 78 tackles (twelfth in Super League) from the bench while half back Harry Smith, who was nominated for Super League’s Young Player of the Year in 2020, has started his third senior season well in the absence of Hastings.

Wigan’s Jake Bibby scores a try against Wakefield – Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

The Warriors opened their account for 2021 with a comeback win against Leigh before restricting Wakefield to only three points at the Totally Wicked Stadium. Jake Bibby (pictured above) scored in both those games, including a hat trick against Trinity, and currently leads the League in tries. The cherry and white’s winning streak also extended into the Challenge Cup at the weekend, beating York City Knights 26-0 at the LNER Community Stadium. Youngsters Sam Halsall and Hanley scored their first tries for the club while tries from Harry Smith, Tony Clubb scored tries. Zak Hardaker also got over the try line and kicked three goals.


2021 Squad


This Month’s Fixtures

Having fought back to win their opening match of the season against Leigh, Wigan continued their 100% winning start to the campaign against Wakefield Trinity at the start of the month, winning 34-6 thanks to tries from Jake Bibby, John Bateman, Zak Hardaker and Oli Partington. Following their headline clash with the Rhinos on Thursday night, the Warriors then host Castleford and Hull who, like Wigan, are undefeated so far in the League. Castleford were one of the only teams to beat the Warriors in 2020 (a 16-12 win at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle) while Hull haven’t beaten Wigan at the DW Stadium since their dramatic 23-22 golden point extra time result in 2019.


Key Players

One of the most anticipated signings ahead of the 2021 Super League season was the return of John Bateman to the Warriors after two seasons in the NRL. In his first season with the Canberra Raiders, the second rower was a popular figure, winning the Dally M medal for second rower of the year and helping Ricky Stuart’s side to the NRL Grand Final since 1994. In his second year, the Raiders came close to the Final once again but were knocked out by Melbourne Storm in the preliminary Final in a rematch of the 2019 Grand Final.

Returning to the club where he had already won a Grand Final and World Club title, Bateman took over the number 13 shirt, previously worn by club legend Sean O’Loughlin who is now part of the coaching staff at the club. So far in 2021, he already has one try and is in the top ten for tackle (89), tackle busts (eight) and offloads (five) in the League.


New Signings

Ins

  • John Bateman (Canberra Raiders)
  • Jai Field (Parramatta Eels)

Outs

  • Morgan Escare (Salford Red Devils)
  • Joe Burgess (Salford Red Devils)
  • Jack Wells (Salford Red Devils)
  • Harry Rushton (Canberra Raiders)
  • Craig Mullen (Leigh Centurions)
  • Ben Flower (Leigh Centurions)
  • Chris Hankinson (London Broncos)
  • Nathan Wilde (Newcastle Thunder)
  • Max Roberts (Oldham)
  • James Barran (Oldham)
  • Ben Holcroft (Oldham)
  • Sean O’Loughlin (Retired)

The Coach

The reigning Betfred Super League Coach of the Year Adrian Lam leads his Wigan side in his fifth meeting with Leeds in all competitions as head coach on Thursday night.

Before joining Wigan as a player in 2001, Lam was highly decorated in the NRL, making over 140 appearances for Eastern Suburbs and Sydney Roosters. He also represented Queensland in the State of Origin, winning the title in 1995 and 1999, as well as representing Papua New Guinea at international level (he would go on to coach PNG too). He signed for Wigan in 2001 and spent four seasons at the club, playing in the 2001 Grand Final defeat to Bradford and 2002 Challenge Cup win over St Helens, scoring a try and kicking a drop goal.

Lam was announced as Wigan for the 2019 season following Shaun Edward’s U-turn. In his first season, even though it got off to a bumpy start, he led Wigan to a second placed finish, winning 18 out of 29 matches, and into the Play Offs, which they lost to the Salford Red Devils, led by current Warriors half back Jackson Hastings. In his second year, he went one better, clinching the League Leaders’ Shield on the final day of the season and got his team to the Grand Final, eventually losing to a last minute St Helens try. He was commended with Super League’s Coach of the Year award at the end of the season before signing a one year deal to stay on as head coach in December.


Returning Faces

Two members of Adrian Lam’s squad return to face their former side on Thursday night. Zak Hardaker and Brad Singleton have never played for Wigan against Leeds at Emerald Headingley, after both players enjoyed long stints at the club.

Hardaker (pictured), was brought into the Leeds squad in 2011 from Featherstone Rovers and over the next five years, helped the club win three Grand Finals, two Challenge Cups, one World Club Challenge and one League Leaders’ Shield. In the Rhinos’ treble season, he was also awarded the Steve Prescott Man of Steel award.

Alongside Hardaker, Brad Singleton is another former Rhino within Adrian Lam’s ranks. The prop came through the Rhinos’ Academy system and debuted in 2011 before going on to make 158 league appearances in blue and amber. He signed for Wigan from Toronto on a three-year deal in 2020 and will face his former club for the first time on Thursday.


Last Game vs Leeds at Emerald Headingley

The last time Wigan visited Emerald Headingley was in 2019, when Lam’s side walked away with a 23-14 win. Despite Liam Sutcliffe kicking an early penalty, Oliver Gildart’s try got the Warriors on the front foot. Leeds’ ill discipline gave Chris Hankinson the chance to extend that lead further, kicking two penalties before Adam Cuthbertson’s try put the Rhinos back in the match. Sam Powell dropped a one-pointer on half time but Trent Merrin charged his way under the post to put Leeds in the lead again. Oli Partington turned the game back in Wigan’s favour and a Tony Clubb try sealed the win for the Cherry and Whites on the full time hooter.