Wigan’s Betfred Super League champions have ‘a lot to strive for’

 | February 09 | 

5 mins read

Betfred Super League Season Launch 2024

Wigan Warriors are a club with a target on their backs in 2024. The Betfred Super League champions are the team to beat after a phenomenal second half of 2023 saw them overcome the rest of the challengers to win a 10-game winning run which culminated in Grand Final glory.

Their 10-2 triumph over Catalans Dragons in the season finale at Old Trafford has been viewed by many neutrals as the beginning of a potential dynasty to follow, but the Warriors players are quick to insist that they won’t change their approach heading into the new campaign.

Betfred Super League odds 2024

  • Wigan to win the Grand Final - 2/1
  • Leeds to win the League Leaders' Shield - 15/2
  • Hull FC to finish in the top six - 7/4

“You can think like that, but we’ve gone the other way really and just focus on ourselves as we always do,” star scrumhalf Harry Smith tells Betfred.

“If each individual improves, I think that will improve the whole team, so that’s been our aim for pre-season and hopefully we can start the season well and show why we are the champions… There’s still a lot to strive for and we’ll definitely be going for the title again.”

Matt Peet’s squad has been boosted by the addition of a host of new faces, with Catalans’ Adam Keighran and Tiaki Chan being joined by former Leeds Rhinos pair Kruise Leeming and Sam Walters, the former returning to the UK after a spell with the Gold Coast Titans.

And another man making a Super League comeback is Luke Thompson, the former St Helens forward who has been in the NRL with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs. The 28-year-old says he can’t wait to get started on familiar ground in Wigan despite the barracking he may receive from rival Saints fans.

“Maybe I’ll get a bit of stick, but I’m a Wigan lad to be honest, so it will be good to represent my hometown club,” he explains. “Obviously, I’ve already done it for St Helens, which is my mum and dad’s hometown club, so when I finish my career and look back I’ll have a shirt from both towns, which is great.

“I’m coming into a champion side, but obviously with that comes a bit of expectation to do it again. I think that’s only a good thing, driving high standards, and obviously we’ll try to do it again.

“I never really thought about coming back, to be honest. But then the chance came up at Wigan, and coming to a champion side was a great opportunity.”

Thompson says the spell in Australia can benefit his new Warriors teammates as well as himself.

“I think I’ve developed quite a lot over there. Obviously, I’m a bit more experienced four years later, so I’m obviously looking to pass that on and help out where I can.”

Wigan Warriors to win Super League at 2/1

Utility superstar Bevan French says that there’s more than just the new signings to get excited about at the DW Stadium this year, thanks in large part to the latest products coming off the famed conveyor belt of rugby league talent in Wigan.

“We’ve made some good signings to come into the starting XIII, but even outside of that we’ve got some of the younger boys coming through,” the Australian tells Betfred. “We got a glimpse of some of the younger players last season and now we’ve recruited some more people as well, and it seems like it just keeps growing and growing.

“It’s a good place to be around, and we’re in a healthy spot with our depth. The season is a long season, and there injuries unfortunately, but that’s where we’ve got an edge over some teams at the moment – in our depth and the recruitments that we’ve made. It’s also good healthy competition for spots as well, so everyone’s got to be on their ‘A’ game.”

The Warriors get their Super League season underway with a visit to Castleford Tigers on Saturday, February 17, and seven days later they have arguably the biggest match of their year when they face Penrith Panthers in the Betfred World Club Challenge.

“I’m buzzing about that one. I’ve already had a crack at that a couple of times at St Helens, so it’s one that I’d love to win,” Thompson says of the contest, which pits the Super League champions against the three-time reigning NRL kings.

“I think it will be a great game over here, especially at the DW Stadium, hopefully with a packed-out crowd. It’s one I’m really looking forward to.

“They’ve been a great side out there for the last three years, it’s going to be a great challenge for us. But it’s one I’m definitely confident we can get the win in and bring that trophy to Wigan.”

Harry Smith agrees regarding the appeal of the World Club Challenge fixture.

“Not many people get the chance to actually play in it, so to win it would be really good,” says the England halfback. “It’s one we’re all looking forward to, and we know that we need to start the season well.

“That’s sort of a second-round game really, so we need to be flying out of the blocks from the start if we want to have any chance of beating them because they’re one of the best teams in the world.

“A lot of people will obviously watch the game, so it’s a chance for you to showcase what you can do. That’s what people do, they look for who shows up in the big games. So that’s definitely an exciting thing for me and all the lads in our team.”

Both the trip to Castleford and the World Club Challenge will be screened live on both BBC Two and Sky Sports channels, with the Saturday night kick-off at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle kicking off at 17:30 GMT and the clash with Penrith starting at 20:00 GMT at the DW Stadium.

 

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