Wigan Warriors star Jake Wardle enjoyed a phenomenal first year in Cherry & White. Following his move from Huddersfield Giants, the centre lifted the League Leaders’ Shield, was named in the Super League Dream Team, scooped the Harry Sunderland Trophy and was crowned a Super League champion.
Missing just one game all season for Wigan, a defeat at Wakefield Trinity in July, the 25-year-old scored 16 tries in 31 appearances with the run to the Challenge Cup semi-finals included.
Wardle too continued his record of scoring in every senior international appearance, crossing for a try in England‘s mid-season rout of France at the Halliwell Jones Stadium to make it two from two having scored on debut in 2022 against the Combined Nations All Stars at the same debut.
Putting it simply, the Halifax-born star became someone England boss Shaun Wane simply couldn’t leave out.
That was until injury prevented him from being involved in the Tonga test games at the end of the year. As we now know, Wardle needed a clean-up knee operation, and had been playing through the pain barrier, which is why he wasn’t named in Wane’s squad for that three-part series.
There was and is, as you’d expect, some disappointment in missing the 3-0 series whitewash on Wardle’s part. But he knows if he reaches the same heights in 2024 as he did in ’23, Wane will be picking up the phone.
Exclusive: Wigan Warriors star Jake Wardle vows to become an England mainstay as he promises to let his rugby do the talking
The Warriors ace – who scored Wigan’s opening try in this afternoon’s 40-0 win at Hull FC in Scott Taylor’s testimonial – spoke exclusively to Love Rugby League at the club’s recent media day ahead of the start of the 2024 season.
Wardle said: “I think for me, it’s just about focusing on my job here at Wigan. I believe if I play as well as I know I can, then that (England selection) – you’d hope – will take care of itself.
“For me, I don’t want to look to far ahead, and I know it’s a big cliche, but I just want to take it each week.
“I’ll try to keep improving each week as a player and as a person here at Wigan, listening to – and learning from – those around me.
“I’m not really looking that far ahead, each week I’ll just see how I go, and then we’ll see whenever the internationals come around whether I’ve done enough.”
In a recent exclusive interview with Love Rugby League, the 32-year-old ex-Scotland international told us: “He (Jake) is seven years younger than me, so as long as he stays injury free, I reckon he’ll always be there in the England team.”
2023 Harry Sunderland Trophy winner Wardle highlights unity between Wigan Warriors and town with emphasis on community involvement
Ahead of the new season, Wigan named ‘The Brick’ as their new charity partner, a local outfit which helps to tackle poverty and homelessness across the Wigan and Leigh borough.
The charity’s logo will appear on the Warriors’ third kit, with a portion of the profits from each shirt sale going directly to the cause.
Elsewhere, players – including Wardle – were involved in winter children’s camps, and for a number of years the Cherry & Whites have been involved in an annual ‘Big Sleepout’, helping to raise funds for ‘The Brick’.
Wardle discussed the impact the club can have on the community, but was quick to detail how much he and his team-mates rely on that same community for their backing every week.
The 25-year-old added: “Us playing here (DW Stadium) and people coming supporting us is massive, sometimes they are the difference in games.
“When you’re in a really tough game and you have the crowd behind you, it does really go a long way.
“It’s something us, as players, notice and we do appreciate it, so for us to give the smallest bit back, it goes a long way.
“Culture is a big thing that Matty (Peet, head coach) spoke to me about before I signed… The culture we’ve got here is massive.
“We’re not just a team as such, we are a group of friends, and it goes far beyond that. Obviously we get involved with the town and the community, and things like that go a long way.”