The two key statistics in Wigan Warriors’ play they must change following St Helens loss

Ben Olawumi
Matt Peet

Wigan Warriors head coach Matt Peet

In the wake of Wigan’s Good Friday defeat at rivals St Helens, we saw two posts on X from Warriors fans with statistics which peaked our interest and nudged us into a bit of a deep dive.

The first – from Bilko, @wiganrlfans – was in relation to penalties and how often Matt Peet‘s men are giving penalties away in 2024 compared to previous seasons.

The second – published by @CallumWRL – referenced offloads and how few the Cherry & Whites are making so far this year.

Just how much truth are there in both of those issues raised, and are they things that Peet and his team need to change? Let’s find out…

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The two key statistics in Wigan Warriors’ play they must change following St Helens loss: Penalties

Have Wigan conceded the most penalties in Super League? No, but that’s only because they’ve played a game fewer than everyone but Leigh Leopards, the team they were scheduled to face in Round 2 when the World Challenge instead (rightly!) took centre stage.

Hull FC take top spot on the penalty count currently with 49, but the Warriors are very close behind on 46. For reference, Leigh – after five Super League games – have conceded only 25 which is the second-fewest in the competition.

Harry Smith
Wigan Warriors’ Harry Smith trudges off the field having been sin-binned against Salford Red Devils

Currently, Wigan average circa 7.7 penalties against per game, and are on course to end the regular season with 207 at this rate, which is eye-watering, particularly when you compare it to previous years.

In 2023 as they lifted the League Leaders’ Shield and were crowned Super League champions for the first time in five years, Peet’s side conceded just 117 across the full season – the second-fewest in the top flight behind only Leigh!

Peet’s first year in charge, 2022, saw the Warriors concede 148 which was the fewest in the competition.

Not since 2021, Adrian Lam‘s final year in charge at the DW Stadium, have a Wigan side been this high up in terms of giving penalties away. That year, they ended on 155 conceded, which was the second-highest tally behind only Leeds Rhinos’ 156.

And even in 2021, those 155 – with 25 regular season games played – only averages at around 6.2 per game, so this current Cherry & Whites crop are comfortably beating that, not that they’d want to.

Is there an explanation? Well, penalties are now being given rather than a ‘six again’ when an infringement is committed in the opponent’s half. Added, there’s obviously more penalties being given now where contact with the head and the like is concerned.

Liam Byrne red card
Wigan Warriors’ Liam Byrne is sent off by referee Chris Kendall in the Good Friday defeat at St Helens for his high tackle on Mark Percival

But t’s all relative. Every Super League team plays under the same rules, as much as some people would suggest otherwise! A penalty is a penalty, and Wigan are giving away far more than the other 11 teams in the division.

In the Good Friday defeat at Saints, in the most basic of ways with the cards shown and late tries scored by the hosts, Peet’s side were punished for the penalties they conceded. Ultimately, if you give a team enough ground cheaply, they will make it count. That’s an obvious statement, but the stats here back up the argument that Wigan’s discipline must improve.

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The two key statistics in Wigan Warriors’ play they must change following St Helens loss: Offloads

Callum kindly went a step further and provided the stat for us – Wigan’s 16 offloads in five Super League games so far this year is a division low.

That’s an average of 3.2 per game, so even if they had played six – like the majority of the rest – they’d sit bottom of the pile in that regard at 19.2. Huddersfield Giants have the second lowest tally with 26 after six games played, so that’s quite a difference.

Taking Wigan’s 3.2 average and tracking it over the course of a full regular 27-game season, obviously providing the offloads per game stayed at the same amount, and they’d finish with 167.4.

167 it is because there’s no such thing as .4 of an offload, at least not in this world. That tally of 167 is – or would be – considerably lower than what we’ve seen from Peet’s side in recent years, but there’s no definite pattern.

Joe Wardle v Salford Red Devils
Wigan Warriors’ Joe Wardle is wrapped up in a tackle against Salford Red Devils and can’t find an offload

Peet’s first year at the helm, which saw Wigan beaten in the play-off semi-finals by Leeds, saw them record 263 offloads in Super League. That saw them end with the third-highest number in the division.

Compare that to the year prior under Lam, and a final tally of 233 saw the Warriors at the lower end of the offload table (which we’ve now coined and trademarked, not really), 9th in the league in that aspect.

And then 2023, the year Wigan returned to the top of the tree. 196 offloads – the second-fewest in Super League. Only Huddersfield (155) recorded less.

Such an irregular pattern hints towards the offload stat being a bit redundant, but there is still some value in it. How you compare to other clubs in that regard is probably redundant, but comparing it to previous versions of yourself as a team is worthwhile.

So while it doesn’t really matter – as proven last year – that Peet’s side don’t offload successfully as much as other teams, they’re offloading with success less this year than they did last, and by some distance too.

It’s easier said than done, but a couple of extra offloads per game can earn you very valuable field position, and sometimes even tries directly, so it’s well worth finding a team-mate if safe to do so during a tackle.

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