Wigan Warriors will be looking to prove a few doubters wrong this year.
The Cherry and Whites started the 2017 campaign in fine form, being crowned the best team in the world after beating the then NRL Premiers Cronulla Sharks in the Dacia World Club Challenge.
However, a number of injuries to their key men saw the team go through a rough patch, with them going through a winless streak of eight Super League games.
But as players such as Oliver Gildart, Micky McIlroum, Tony Clubb and Sam Tomkins returned from injury, they reached the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final but fell short to Hull FC at Wembley.
They left it too late though to make the semi-finals of the Betfred Super League though, finishing in sixth, with 31 points.
It was a good year for their youngsters, in many respects, who will now be better for that first team experience. Wane handed out seven debuts to Academy products Tom Davies, Liam Marshall, Josh Ganson, Callum Field, Liam Forsyth, Josh Woods and James Worthington in 2017.
Tom Davies has been handed the number two jersey this year after having a blinder of a debut season in 2017, scoring 13 tries in 22 games from the wing. It’s his work-rate that stands out though.
The 21-year-old made 3,359 metres in Super League last year and comparing that with St Helens prop Alex Walmsley – who was the league’s top metre-maker last year with 4,256 and also playing seven more games – that’s pretty impressive stuff from Davies.
And on the back of their poor end to the season, Wane says the team are hungrier than ever to challenge for trophies this year.
He said: “The way we went out is not up to Wigan’s standards.
“We lost over 40% of our games so we need to improve. We want to win games, I want to attack better and I want to defend better so our pre-season has been totally different this year.
“I want to be involved on the last day (Grand Final), but I’m sure the St Helens coach (Justin Holbrook) would say the same. I want to be at Old Trafford and we weren’t (last year), it wasn’t just that though – it was the manner in how we went out, losing at Wakefield and getting beat by Cas (Castleford Tigers).
“All the players are angry and they look like they have got a point to prove. Everyone seems to be writing us off at the minute which is good and I’m motivated by that and so are the players – we just want to get started now.”
Head Coach: Shaun Wane
Assistant Coach: John Winder
Captain: Sean O’Loughlin
Key Man: Sam Tomkins
One to Watch: Tom Davies
Ins: Dan Sarginson (Gold Coast Titans), Gabe Hamlin (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
Outs: Anthony Gelling (NZ Warriors), Gabe Fell (Swinton Lions), Micky McIlorum (Catalans Dragons), Kyle Shelford (Swinton Lions), Nick Gregson (Leigh Centurions), Lewis Tierney (Catalans Dragons)
Squad: 1 Sam Tomkins, 2 Tom Davies, 3 Dan Sarginson, 4 Oliver Gildart, 5 Joe Burgess, 6 George Williams, 7 Sam Powell, 8 Tony Clubb, 9 Tommy Leuluai, 10 Ben Flower, 11 Joel Tomkins, 12 Liam Farrell, 13 Sean O’Loughlin, 14 John Bateman, 15 Ryan Sutton, 16 Frank-Paul Nuuausala, 17 Taulima Tautai, 19 Willie Isa, 20 Morgan Escaré, 21 Dom Manfredi, 22 Liam Marshall, 23 Josh Ganson, 24 Jake Shorrocks, 25 Romain Navarrete, 26 Jack Wells, 27 Callum Field, 28 Liam Forsyth, 29 Jack Higginson 30 Gabe Hamlin, 31 Joe Bretherton, 32 Caine Barnes, 33 Macauley Davies, 34 Josh Woods, 35 Ollie Partington, 36 Samy Kibula, 37 James Worthington, 38 Craig Mullen, 39 Liam Paisley.