Inside the deal: How Wigan Warriors tied down superstar Jai Field with new long-term contract

Ben Olawumi
Jai Field

Jai Field celebrates a try for Wigan Warriors in 2023 - Alamy

Wigan Warriors fans – and the rest of Super League – will be able to enjoy the dazzling performances of Jai Field for at least another four years, with the Australian relishing the chance to leave a lasting legacy at the DW Stadium.

Field has been with the Cherry and Whites since 2021, with the long-term extension announced earlier this month his second during his time at the club so far.

So far, there has been a Challenge Cup lift, a League Leaders’ Shield secured and crucially the glory of being crowned a Super League champion, contributing heavily to Wigan’s first Grand Final triumph since 2018 last October.

Amidst all that success however, emerging as one of Super League‘s genuine superstars, there has been disappointment too.

Field spent most of his first year in the British game on the sidelines after injuring his hamstring on debut against Leigh, then Centurions.

Wigan also lost a play-off semi-final at home to Leeds Rhinos the year after, before returning to the top of the pyramid in 2023.

The journey is only just starting though, as he told Love Rugby League this afternoon at the Warriors’ pre-season media day.

Inside the deal: How Wigan Warriors tied down superstar Jai Field with new long-term contract

Speaking at their Robin Park training base, the ex-NRL ace said: “There’s no denying that I do really enjoy it here. I’m really settled now here at the club, and the group has been together for three or four years now.

“If you’re settled off the field, you always feel like results are going to go your way on it. We’ve had a lot of young boys come through together, so we’ve got a young spine. To have that core group still here makes it really easy to stay.

“I had the chats with Matty (Peet, head coach) and Rads (Kris Radlinski, CEO) about what they see going forward, both for myself and for the team.

“They’ve tied down a lot of boys now, me included, so it’s exciting and something that – as a player – you just want to be a part of.

Jai Field Wigan Warriors Alamy
Jai Field celebrates Wigan’s Super League play-off semi-final win in 2023 – Alamy

“Since the day I walked in the door, they’ve shown huge faith in me. I had a pretty horrid 2021, they kept me on, and I want to try and repay that faith in me. It’s home away from home, which makes it pretty easy to stick around.”

During today’s media day, ‘culture’ was the buzzword on the lips of all donning Wigan‘s new training gear, with Field referencing it as something which provided further incentive to sign on the dotted line oncemore.

He continued: “Matty never lets us get too far ahead of ourselves, and the senior playing group are the same. It’s all about coming in, working hard and improving.

“You can feel a buzz round the group, everyone’s excited and wants to be here. Culture is the one big thing that Matty’s driven since he’s taken over, getting the town and the community back involved.

“All of the club come and do stuff together, we’re like one big group. It’s not separated between first-team and other teams here, everyone can come in and have a look around.

“That sort of thing might seem like a little thing, but it’s that type of stuff deep down for a player that makes a big difference.”

Wigan chief Kris Radlinski: ‘It was very clear early on in our discussions just how happy Jai is here’

Chief Executive Officer Radlinski himself played over 300 games for hometown club Wigan, going on to spend nine years as an Executive Director at the DW Stadium before assuming his current role last year.

Accordingly, he knows a thing or two about the game both on the pitch and off it, including what players consider when weighing up contract offers.

It’s certainly not just pounds, shillings and pence, as he explained earlier today: “It’s becoming harder and harder, but once we get a player on a three or four-year contract, I guess it shows the attention to detail we have in planning for long-term.

“We’re in a salary cap sport, and we’ve got a number of competitors out there both here and in Australia.

Kris Radlinski, Wigan Warriors
Chief Kris Radlinski celebrates on the pitch with Wigan Warriors players including Jai Field following their 2022 Challenge Cup final victory – Alamy

“Retention and recruitment conversations are something that happen on a weekly basis between Matt, myself and the ownership, so it’s very much something that’s live all the time.

Jai’s one of the best players in the league, no doubt about it. I had discussions with Jai, and discussions with players like that can often become difficult because there are so many other options, but what was clear very early on is how happy Jai is here.

“I actually spoke to his mother about his happiness, and that’s testament to the work that goes on here, that happiness is everything.

“Playing in the big games, training in a facility like this (Robin Park), looking after families. It’s a holistic picture which a player needs to look at when signing a long-term contract. Jai signed his deal, and the day after, we sent some flowers and some wine to his mum in Australia.

“If you keep a mum happy and you’re keeping a son happy, there’s all the benefits that go around it. It makes the decision he’s making that bit easier when he knows he’s being looked after.

“If you’re not settled off the field, then you’re not coming in the right frame of mind to train and work hard every day. I think we do a lot of work and things that people don’t see.

“When a player signs a new contract, people think it’s just a financial decision, and it’s not. You have to look at the package on offer.”

Warriors head coach Matt Peet hails ‘fantastic’ Jai Field after superstar puts pen to paper on new long-term deal with club

Cherry and Whites boss Peet is another with a huge amount of experience in the game having been involved with the club for more than a decade, most of his time spent in the academy and youth ranks.

He’s only been the man in charge of stars like Field since taking the head coach gig ahead of the 2022 campaign following the departure of Adrian Lam.

But – undoubtedly – he has helped to mould the back into what the eye-catching talent he is today, getting him back firing after the disastrous first campaign on the sidelines.

Jai Field crosses for a try in Wigan's 2022 Challenge Cup Final win - Alamy
Jai Field crosses for a try in Wigan Warriors’ 2022 Challenge Cup Final win – Alamy

Peet lauded the 26-year-old’s heart and desire: “Jai is a fantastic player and a fantastic lad. He’s grown into a real leader at the club, and for a coach to have players that are key to the team locked in for three, four, five years, it makes your job very easy.

“It takes away any uncertainty and means you can concentrate on developing that player, as well as developing the relationship you have with them.

“It’s a credit to him and the way he’s been brought up that he’s bounced back from that injury like he has. One thing that you can’t instil in a player is that resilience and the work ethic.

“Jai’s never missed a beat in his preparation. I remember the way he rehabbed from that injury and it’s certainly paid off on the field.”

Peet details how Wigan are chasing ‘sustained success’ with Field a key part of that

39-year-old Peet’s first trophy at the helm of his boyhood club – the Challenge Cup – was earned at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium against Huddersfield Giants, with Field on the scoresheet in the capital, already forever etched into the history books.

Winning each of the three domestic trophies on offer once is far from good enough for the Warriors however, who this year we’re sure will be chasing at least the treble, with the possibility of a quadruple if they can see off NRL kings Penrith Panthers in next month’s sold out World Club Challenge on home soil.

As they look to create more history, former St George Illawarra Dragons & Parramatta Eels man Field was someone who Peet knew he wanted around for the long-haul, but the boss told Love Rugby League that planning is always going to be long-term where he and those at the top of the club are concerned.

The ex-England Academy coach continued: “To be honest, we’re constantly chatting to the players about that (long-term vision), not just Jai and not just lads who are out of contract.

Matt Peet, Jai Field
Wigan Warriors head coach Matt Peet (left) with Jai Field (right) following a game in 2022 – Alamy

“We’re looking to build a club that has sustained success. Jai was well aware, and it’s clear how important he is to this team. We consult him on a lot of stuff, as we do with other players.

“I don’t think it was a matter of picking up that conversation because we wanted him to sign a new contract, it was a natural stage of our relationship.

“If you’re winning and you’re improving, you feel valued and you feel like you’ve got that sense of belonging and a connection to the group. Those decisions become easier then.

“You don’t, and you can’t, win them all. Some players move on who you’d like to keep, but hopefully by building that strong connection between the group and an environment where everyone wants to improve and wants to win, you’re onto a winner.

“If you’ve got that roadmap in place, as we have, hopefully you’ll win more than you lose. Jai’s deal was the latest tick on that roadmap for us.”

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