Having guided his team to a League Leaders’ Shield triumph, Matt Peet will have learned lessons from previous heartaches and is fancied to take them all the way to Old Trafford.
Those are the views of Sky Sports pundits Barrie McDermott, who watched the Cherry and Whites lift their first silverware of the year on Friday night following a 10-6 win on the final night of the regular season away against Leigh Leopards.
Peet led the Warriors to Challenge Cup glory for the first time since 2013 last term, beating Huddersfield Giants in the final at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
They’ve now got another monkey off their backs with the League Leaders’ Shield, lifting it in front of their supporters – circa 3000 of them a few miles down the road at the Leigh Sports Village – for the first time since 2012. The Warriors won it in 2020, though that came behind closed doors during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
It’s not all been plain sailing for last year’s Super League Coach of the Year – who recently signed a new long-term contract – but he’s now been backed to take his hometown club back to Old Trafford for the first time since 2018.
Sky trio believe Matt Peet ‘learning all the time’; Wigan Warriors boss backed to take them into Grand Final
Having finished 2nd on the ladder in 2022, Wigan were rewarded with a home semi-final tie. Leeds Rhinos shocked Catalans Dragons at the eliminator stage in Perpignan, and accordingly the Warriors were heavy favourites for the last-four tie against Rohan Smith’s men. They never really got going that night though, and ended up losing 20-8 against the odds.
More recently, Peet saw his side beaten in golden point extra time in this year’s Challenge Cup semi-finals by Hull KR. Again, they were favourites that day. Winger Liam Marshall spoke after Friday’s win at Leigh about how they’d used that ‘heartbreaking’ defeat as fuel moving forward to win all eight games left in the regular season after it.
And as the Cherry and Whites celebrated the shield, Sky pundit McDermott led the praise for Peet, who he believes will have taken huge lessons from those two losses. The Rhinos legend said: “There’s a determination not to lose another semi-final from Matt Peet, but also an intelligence and a level of intelligence which means he’s learning all the time.
“They’ve been outstanding, highlighted by the fact that the fight went down to the final round to see who won it. To be the most consistent team in the competition, let me tell you, it means a lot for the players, the fans, and to Matty Peet and his coaching staff.
“He knows that they’ve had to turn up. They now go into a different competition and the play-offs, you have a week off and then it’s all ‘hey boys hey’, it’s a different competition.
“This competition after the weekend, that’s it, it’s done, and focus moves onto the Grand Final as the next thing but they’ll enjoy it. It’s been a tough year but they’ve got their rewards through Matty Peet.”
Two key cogs in Wigan machine highlighted after impressive final night performances
McDermott’s colleague Phil Clarke was a part of the Wigan side that dominated the landscape in this country in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
He made over 150 appearances for the club, and singled out a key duo for some praise following the League Leaders’ Shield lift, with Love Rugby League sharing the same views in our ‘five takeaways’ piece from the game.
Clarke added: “If they can defend how they have done tonight, and as they have done in recent weeks, and then you’ve got Jai Field and Bevan French, you’ve got every chance of winning every game.
“The fact that you’ve got your best attacker – Bevan French – wanting to be your best defender when he chases some of those kicks and wins them 50 metres up the line without doing too much effort than his runs, you know you’re in a great mindset.”
Meanwhile, Jamie Jones-Buchanan detailed just how success on the field for a club like the Warriors can see huge rewards reaped off it.
He said: “Winning the League Leaders certainly does show consistency, and there’s a bit of prize money in there as well. If you can get to the Grand Final and win that, it’s a jackpot repeater.
“That becomes a World Club Challenge then if you stick with it, but it goes to show you can’t really get the time to celebrate this because preparations have got to continue to be forensic going into the play-offs. Wigan just need to maintain that quality bit of form that they’re in right now.”