It’s finally over – Shaun Edwards will not be returning to rugby league to take the reins at Wigan.
Nobody comes out of this situation with pride in tact, Wigan having had their plans ripped up and been made to look a little red-faced having announced Edwards in a blaze of publicity last August; while Edwards has surely dented his legendary status at a club where he dominated as a player.
Now a line has been drawn under the saga, Wigan must look ahead and sort their immediate future out, especially with several key players soon off contract.
We’ve had a look at some options for them.
Stick with Adrian Lam
It was always a peculiar situation, bringing in Adrian Lam for a year before Edwards was to take over, and maybe now there is a possibility of a longer stint, Lam may be tempted to stay. That said, given the start Wigan have made to the season, neither he or Wigan may be in a rush to commit for next season. In amongst the PR spin around the Edwards announcement, it was stated that Lam had eyes on a return to the NRL for 2020, though that may well have just been a smokescreen to fit the situation presented to him at the time.
Bring back Shaun Wane
You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone. Shaun Wane departed in emotional circumstances as a Grand Final winner, and his record as Warriors coach is something to be proud of. While his playing style may not have been to everyone’s tastes, there is no doubting his pedigree, he led Wigan to three Super League titles and a World Club Challenge victory, during a reign where he handed a phenomenal 41 academy graduates their debuts in the cherry and white.
A big name former player
If the Edwards saga hasn’t put them off, maybe Wigan could go after another former player with coaching pedigree, of which there are a few. Australian Trent Barrett left his role as Manly head coach in acrimonious circumstances in the off-season and is available to return to Wigan where he played in 2007 and 2008. Denis Betts, recently appointed as director of rugby at Newcastle, was part of the incredible Wigan team of the 80s/90s alongside Edwards, though his stock has decreased dramatically in the past two years following the collapse of his Widnes side and also the end of his tenure in the England set-up. Previously an assistant coach and player at Wigan, Paul Deacon is another that has gone over to rugby union to cut his coaching teeth and might fancy the top job at the DW Stadium.
A rival Super League coach
Though of course a former Wigan player in his own right, Chris Chester deserves a shout out for the Wigan post for the miracles he has worked at Wakefield. Trinity will be desperate to keep hold of the man they took a punt on following his sacking from Hull KR, and indeed Chester may feel like it’s a bit of a no-win situation joining Wigan at this stage, especially with Wakefield’s possible stadium re-development on the horizon, and their clear ability to compete as it is. Perhaps Salford’s Ian Watson may be on Wigan’s radar too.
A coach from the lower leagues
It’s not very often you see clubs go in to the lower leagues for a coach, but there are some decent English coaches kicking around down there – James Ford’s York are well coached and well drilled, though it may be too soon for him to take a job in Super League, while the likes of Richard Marshall are well thought of. Kieron Purtill and John Duffy’s Leigh connections may mean they’re given a wide berth though!
A man from Down Under
St Helens have enjoyed success under Justin Holbrook, a relative unknown before he came over to Super League. Wigan have tasted success under this route previously too, bringing over Michael Maguire who transformed them back in to a major powerhouse in Super League prior to Wane’s reign. The question is, do Wigan have time to do a thorough exploration of the available coaching prospects Down Under, given their need to recruit?
Who do you think will be the next Wigan coach? Let us know in the comments below.