Kruise Leeming details why he chose to join Wigan Warriors ‘champion environment’ despite offer to remain in NRL

Ross Heppenstall
Kruise Leeming Gold Coast Titans Alamy

Kruise Leeming has penned a four-year deal with Wigan - Alamy

Since being promoted to head coach two years ago, Matt Peet has been credited with changing the entire culture at Wigan Warriors.

In the three previous seasons before he clinched the top job, the Cherry and Whites failed to win the Challenge Cup or Super League title.

In their two campaigns under Peet, they have lifted both and also finished top last season.

Peet is a big believer in creating the kind of close-knit environment where his players and staff can thrive.

Kruise Leeming says that culture and collective desire is what persuaded him and others to join the 2023 Grand Final winners.

The former Huddersfield Giants and Leeds Rhinos hooker has signed a four-year deal after spending the majority of last season at NRL outfit Gold Coast Titans.

He began pre-season training last week and told Love Rugby League: “I knew coming to Wigan that I would be entering a champion environment because they’re a club with such a rich history.

“They won the League Leaders’ Shield and Grand Final last season and the culture that Matty Peet has created is clear to see.

“You can’t have success like that with a bad culture and I think what reverberates around the rugby league world is the environment that’s in place here at Wigan.

“People and certainly players within the game know about it.

“I’ve seen it first-hand myself but what’s been surprising for me coming here is that they won two trophies last season, yet I’ve not heard it mentioned once.

“The way the group has spoken, the talks that Matty has given and the footage they’ve used, the success of 2023 hasn’t been mentioned.

“And I think in sport you’ve got to have a really short memory whether it be about success or failure because it’s an ongoing challenge.

“You’re always climbing a mountain and going down the other side and then trying to get back up again.

“If you hang on to your wins too much then you end up getting caught up by the people below because you’re almost strutting around with an ego.

“And obviously you can’t dwell on your losses. You need to dust yourself down and go again.

“I think Wigan have got the balance absolutely perfect and there are no egos here.

“Everybody is there to work hard and have fun, but the hard work is actually in the fun and that’s what I’ve noticed.”

Wigan Warriors recruit Kruise Leeming hails club’s ‘successful culture’ as Super League champions target more silverware

Wigan have also signed Sam Walters, Adam Keighran, Sam Eseh, Tiaki Chan and Luke Thompson.

Leeming added: “They’re all top players and probably had six or seven clubs after them with better money elsewhere.

“But we all want to be part of a successful culture here at Wigan and win trophies.

“Again, that’s testament to what has been created at this club – it’s spread far and wide.

“We can all play rugby league, but it’s the winning mentality, that champion standard that you put on each other without falling out is a challenge in itself.

“The only way you can speak to your team-mates in a certain way is by having that relationship with them and that stems from being together in the right culture and environment.

“That’s where the winning formula comes from. That’s a powerful thing to have.”

Why he chose Wigan as his next move despite Gold Coast Titans’ offer to stay

Leeming revealed he could have stayed at Gold Coast Titans but was impressed by what Wigan and Peet had to offer.

He said the feeling was mutual, adding: “There was an option to stay at Gold Coast, but I was so free and open to my next move.

“I was in the mindset that I was doing the right thing and training properly and had made a good reputation for myself.

“That was something that really gave me confidence in myself and was nice to hear.

“Every club that spoke to me said ‘we’ve heard you train well, have a good mindset and are really good with the lads’.

“That was something which made me really proud because rugby league is a small world and reputation is everything.

“If you’re known as a bad egg or someone who doesn’t train right then you don’t end up at a club like Wigan because they won’t tolerate that kind of behaviour.

“I was biding my time because I knew this chunk of my career was the most important.

“I really feel that I haven’t yet fulfilled my potential but I think Wigan can be the place for me to do that.

“Out of every club in Super League and the NRL, I genuinely believe that Wigan is the best place to get the best out of me as a player.

“That’s ultimately what it boils down to for me and is why I’m here.”

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