Inside Wigan Warriors’ conveyor belt of homegrown talent and promoting from within

Drew Darbyshire
Matt Peet and Liam Farrell Wigan Warriors Alamy

Wigan coach Matt Peet (right) with academy product and now captain Liam Farrell (left)

It’s no secret that Wigan Warriors have one of the best academy set-ups within rugby league, producing homegrown players week after week, year after year. 

Wigan have produced hundreds of players over the years (far too many for us to name them all in one article!) who have gone on to play in the NRL, Super League and on the international stage.

And for players who might not break into Wigan’s first team, many of them go on to forge successful careers in the Championship and League 1.

Matt Peet, who worked in the academy ranks at Wigan for many years before taking the reins as head coach of his hometown club, was also a member of the club’s academy once upon a time before hanging up his boots and focusing on coaching.

The 39-year-old puts a huge emphasis on promoting from within, having fielded 11 academy products already in 2024, and we are just a month into the season.

“I thought it would be more to be honest with you,” Peet laughed when asked by Love Rugby League about the 11 academy products they’ve played this season. “That’s the way we do it and it has to be.

“We sit on a hotbed of talent here in the north west. The players and staff in the academy probably don’t get the credit they deserve, also the community clubs.

“The most direct people to mention are John Duffy and Shane Eccles, Joel Tomkins joins that crew, but this current crop have come through under Shane and Duffs over the last couple of years.

“They do a fantastic job – not just coaching and guiding these players – but getting them playing opportunities away from Wigan and the reserves, going out on loan and dual-reg. It takes a lot of managing, and Shane and Duffs do a fantastic job. Fortunately, they take a bit of that workload away from me and it means that those players get the attention they deserve.

“We’ve just left the training field and Duffs is working closely with the likes of Jack (Farrimond), Zach (Eckersley) and Jacob (Douglas) – it’s a strong point of the club’s staff at the moment.”

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Wigan Warriors: Promoting from within is part of the club’s DNA

Jack Farrimond Wigan Warriors Alamy
Jack Farrimond became Wigan’s latest academy product to make his first team debut last weekend

The 11 academy products that have already featured for the Warriors this season are: Liam Marshall, Harry Smith, Brad O’Neill, Liam Byrne, Liam Farrell, Harvie Hill, Tom Forber, Zach Eckersley, Ryan Hampshire, Jack Farrimond and Junior Nsemba.

England international Farrell is the academy product with the most experience, with the Wigan captain having made more than 350 appearances for his boyhood club since his first team debut back in 2010.

What makes the Wigan academy so important? Well, in a nutshell, it gives youngsters from the town and surrounding areas a chance to make a name for themselves and pull on the famous cherry and white jersey.

“It’s just something Wigan has,” Farrell told Love Rugby League. “We continuously produce young lads who are talented.

“A lot of them stay on here and become players who spend 10 or 15 years at the club and some move on to other clubs but we just seem to have a real good knack of producing lads who are talented at rugby and hopefully it continues for a long time.

“There’s a lot of people in the town who hold rugby league close to their hearts – you’ve got the likes of St Pats and St Judes and those kinds of clubs – lads just want to play rugby league and they are desperate to make their debuts for Wigan. We’ve got a lot of lads who have done it and they just want to follow in the footsteps of each other.

“In years gone by we’ve had some superstars come through the club and hopefully we’ll continue to produce those young players and superstars of the future.”

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