2023 Season Review

Following on from winning the Challenge Cup in 2022, the Warriors enjoyed further success as Matt Peet’s side lifted the League Leaders’ Shield and Betfred Super League trophy in 2023.

Despite the Super League season starting off with a defeat at Hull KR in front of the Channel 4 cameras, the Warriors bounced back with successive victories to nil against Wakefield Trinity and Castleford Tigers as Liam Marshall scored eight tries across the three matches.

The Warriors then suffered a narrow loss to Catalans Dragons at the DW Stadium before Peet’s side went on an incredible six-match winning run which started with a 14-12 victory on the road against Huddersfield Giants as Bevan French (x2) and new signing Jake Wardle crossed for tries.

After a victory over Salford Red Devils at the DW Stadium, a dominant performance in the first ‘Battle of the Borough’ instalment of the season against Leigh Leopards saw Jai Field and Abbas Miski score two tries each in a 34-6 win. The victory however was marred with confirmation that Field would miss at least two months with a hamstring injury.

A fourth consecutive victory was inspired by Harry Smith who scored 10 points for the Warriors, alongside a try from Toby King, in a 14-6 Good Friday derby victory against St Helens. Despite the win, which saw a sold out DW Stadium entertained pre-match by legendary vocalist Angie Brown, Mike Cooper was forced off with an ACL injury which ruled the forward out for the remainder of the season.

Peet’s side travelled to the Halliwell Jones Stadium to face the league leaders Warrington Wolves who had won eight from eight. A perfect performance from the Warriors, which included tries from Wardle and Brad O’Neill, as well as four goals and a drop goal from Smith, saw Wigan claim the two points to end the hosts unbeaten start to the campaign.

Having closed the gap at the top of the table to two points, the Warriors went top of the pile on points difference following a 22-6 win over Wakefield Trinity at the DW Stadium. French crossed for his 100th Wigan try in the win, whilst Junior Nsemba made his first Super League appearance on home soil. Harvie Hill also came off the bench to play his first minutes of the campaign as the Warriors went into the international break full of confidence.

After a hat-trick of victories saw Peet named April’s Super League Coach of the Month, the Club’s fine form resulted in six Warriors being selected to represent England in their mid-season international against France. Ethan Havard, Wardle, Kai Pearce-Paul and Smith – who converted nine goals from the tee – each scored a try in an emphatic 64-0 win, as King and Morgan Smithies also started.

Back-to-back defeats against Hull FC and Leeds Rhinos followed upon the return to league action, however, the Warriors came from behind to bounce back in the Challenge Cup. Despite trailing to Leeds at the break, second half tries from French, Wardle and a first senior score from Nsemba fired Wigan into the next round, as Ryan Hampshire made his first appearance since re-joining the Club after 11 months out injured.

Despite losing Willie Isa, Pearce-Paul and Havard to long-term injuries, the Warriors made a dramatic return to winning ways in Super League against Hull KR. A nail-biting final five minutes saw Marshall rise highest to touch down, before Miski acrobatically dived over in the corner to take the game to golden point. A fantastic solo break from French in extra time created an opening as Farrell ran in to complete his hat-trick and keep Wigan within two points of Warrington at the top of the table.

Field returned to action for the first time since Round 7 at Magic Weekend as the Warriors were beaten 46-22 by Catalans Dragons at Newcastle’s St James’ Park. The Australian was on the scoresheet alongside French against St Helens in Round 15, however, the hosts claimed the win at the Totally Wicked Stadium.

After falling to sixth in the table, Peet’s side regrouped and produced a hard-fought win over Warrington in the Challenge Cup to advance to the semi-finals. Despite being reduced to 12-men after six minutes after Kaide Ellis was shown red for an off the ball incident which resulted in a three-match suspension, the Warriors scored tries through King and Miski to set up a clash with Hull KR for a place at Wembley. Peet announced post-match that Havard had signed a new four-year deal with the Warriors.

The Cherry and Whites then produced a resolute showing in Salford as Farrell scored twice against the Red Devils to claim two points. Over the next two days the Club announced the signings of Kruise Leeming, Sam Walters and Tiaki Chan for 2024.

The positivity continued as Miski scored twice to help the Warriors close out June with a victory over Huddersfield Giants, and following the win the Club announced they had taken the one-year option to extend Miski’s contract. July began with a golden point defeat against Wakefield Trinity.

Wigan secured a third win of the year against Warrington just three days after O’Neill extended his contract for a further four-years. The Warriors continued to recruit for 2024 as Adam Keighran became the latest addition to be announced, however, it was also revealed that Ian Lenagan would be stepping down as Chairman and Shareholder after 16 seasons in charge.

Ahead of the Warriors’ Challenge Cup semi-final clash against Hull KR, Wigan announced Ellis had signed a three-year extension. The forward started at Headingley, however, Wigan, who were reduced to 12-men after Joe Shorrocks was shown a red card a minute into the second half, were beaten in golden point.

Three days after the defeat, the Warriors announced the immediate signing of Tyler Dupree from Salford Red Devils in a deal which saw Brad Singleton depart in the opposite direction. Dupree made an instant impact in front of the Warriors support as he marked his debut with a memorable try in front of the Channel 4 cameras, as the Warriors beat Leigh Leopards 44-18 to go second in the table.

Back-to-back home victories against Hull KR and Hull FC were followed by one of the stand out performances of the season against league leaders Catalans Dragons in Perpignan. The Warriors scored six tries without conceding against a Catalans side who had won 13 of their last 14 in Super League, as Smith hit a personal milestone in the win.

A ruthless showing in attack, which saw Miski cross for a third hat-trick in four games, and a resolute performance in defence led by Liam Byrne, saw the Warriors then return to the top of the table for the first time since Round 10 following a win over Salford Red Devils. Peet’s side produced another dominant away showing in West Yorkshire as the Cherry and Whites scored nine tries to beat Leeds Rhinos 50-0.

Ahead of the Warriors’ final home match of the regular season, the Club announced that head coach Peet had signed a new four-year deal, whilst Cooper, Isa and Patrick Mago all agreed one-year extensions.

Miski scored five tries in the win over the Tigers to take his Super League try total to 27, as the Warriors held pole position heading into the final round of the regular campaign. In a tense battle against Leigh Leopards, first half tries from Field and Wardle proved to be enough for the Cherry and Whites who held on to win 10-6 and lift the League Leaders’ Shield for a fourth time.

Ahead of the play-off semi-final clash against Hull KR, who beat Leigh a week earlier in the quarter-final, the Warriors announced the signing of Luke Thompson from Canterbury Bulldogs on a four-year deal. A 10th win in a row secured a place in the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford, as Marshall marked his 150th appearance for the Club with a hat-trick, alongside seven goals from Smith, in a 42-12 victory.

In the week leading up to the Super League Grand Final against Catalans Dragons, who beat St Helens at the death courtesy of a try from Sam Tomkins, French became the first Warrior since Tomkins to be named The Steve Prescott Man of Steel. Peet and O’Neill were also nominated for Coach of the Year and Young Player of the Year at the awards.

The Warriors faced the Dragons in a tense showdown at Old Trafford, which saw the sides go into the break level after a goal apiece from Smith and Keighran, who in the first half became only the second player ever to be sin-binned in a Grand Final. A yellow card for for former Warrior Tom Davies in the second half allowed Wigan to take advantage, as an electric move saw Farrell set up Marshall to dive over for the winning try as the Warriors held on to be crowned league Champions for a 23rd time.

Recruitment for the 2024 campaign has continued in the off-season with the addition of Sam Eseh Jr from Wakefield Trinity, as well as the Warriors confirming long-term contract extensions for Nsemba and Smith, who was named England’s Player of the Series in a Test win over Tonga.

2023 proved to be a successful season for the Club as a whole as the Warriors Reserves and Wheelchair Super League side were crowned Champions. Warriors Women’s reached the play-offs, whilst the Club’s Wheelchair Championship side lost out in the Grand Final.

The Warriors will be aiming to build on their success in 2024 and be crowned World Champions for a fifth time when they face NRL Champions Penrith Panthers at the DW Stadium. 17,000 tickets have already been sold for February’s clash, and you can purchase yours HERE.

Sunday 31 December 2023