Wigan Warriors 2012 season preview

Wigan’s season almost shadowed Warrington’s as the two teams battled each other for the top throughout the entire season.

Wigan claimed the Challenge Cup, beating Warrington on the road to the final. However despite Warrington piping the Warriors to the League Leaders Shield, neither team went onto become champions, as Wigan failed to get past St Helens in the play off semi finals. 

Under the helm of former assistant coach Shaun Wane, Wigan will still possess the coaching qualities Michael Maguire left behind while adding a fresh approach to the title chase.

Wane has brought in former Crusaders coach Iestyn Harris as his assistant, increasing the experience of the coaching staff which will only help the Warriors cause. 

In addition, Wane has brought in some bulk to increase the size of the Warriors pack. Epalahame Lauaki comes in from Hull to replace the retiring Andy Coley. Former Crusaders forward Ben Flower, who was in hot demand when the Welsh club withdrew their Super League application, replaces the Melbourne-bound Ryan Hoffman.

Key man: Sam Tomkins

Last season was a year when Sam Tomkins made his name in rugby league. He was a stand out player for Wigan and England, but his maturity was exposed frequently throughout the year. After being subject to jeers from sections of the crowd for England against the Exiles, he made his two fingered reply to the Leeds fans during the Challenge Cup final. Despite his sincere apologies after the match, he is a player who opponents love to hate. Whatever your views on the young 22-year old, it is hard to deny he is Wigan’s most influential player. He has a knack of creating attacking opportunities from nothing, and will again be under the spotlight as Wigan look to reclaim the Super League crown.

One-to-watch: Joe Mellor

Joe Mellor is a future star who will one day take Super League by storm. Having made the Wigan first team squad in 2010, he seriously injured his knee before the season began. He recovered, and gained experience for the Warriors playing on a duel registration contract for Widnes last season and having a spell on loan at Harlequins. It was here where Mellor showed he has the potential to play at the highest level. His performances for Widnes against Barrow and Toulouse were good enough for supporters to take notice of the youngster. He will be expected to force himself into the first team during 2012. 

Transfers In: Epalahame Lauaki (Hull FC), Ben Flower (Crusaders), Gil Dudson (Crusaders), Anthony Gelling (Auckland)

Transfers Out: Martin Gleeson (Hull FC), Paul Deacon (Retired), Anthony Coley (Retired), Joel Tomkins (Saracens RU), Ryan Hoffman (Melbourne), Eamon O’Carroll (Hull FC), Karl Pryce (Released), Ben Davies (Widnes)

Prediction: Under the new head coach they will want to put their early play of defeat behind them, 1st.

Super League Grand Final Odds: 11/4 (Joint favourites)

League Leaders Odds: 12/5 (2nd)

Challenge Cup Odds: 11/4 (Joint favourites)

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Squad: Sam Tomkins, Josh Charnley, Darrell Goulding, George Carmont, Pat Richards, Brett Finch, Thomas Leuluai, Paul Prescott, Michael McIllorum, Lee Mossop, Harrison Hansen, Gareth Hock, Sean O’Loughlin, Jeff Lima, Stuart Fielden, Liam Farrell, Chris Tuson, Stefan Marsh, Amos Roberts, Epalahame Lauaki, Gil Dudson, Ben Flower, Anthony Gelling, Joe Mellor, Jack Hughes, Matty Russell, Logan Tomkins, Sam Powell, Ryan King, Greg Burke, Tom Spencer, Dom Crosby, Liam Carberry.