Wigan Warriors told they’re ‘on cusp of the next dynasty’ as pundit makes Grand Final prediction

Ross Heppenstall
Jai Field Wigan Warriors Alamy

Jai Field celebrates Wigan's Super League play-off semi-final win in 2023 - Alamy

Barrie McDermott knows how it feels to win a Super League Grand Final, having helped Leeds Rhinos to a seminal victory over Bradford Bulls in the 2004 title decider.

It was the Headingley giants’ first championship since 1972 and laid the platform for a remarkable dynasty of success.

The so-called Golden Generation, led by homegrown talents such as Danny McGuire, Kevin Sinfield and Rob Burrow, helped deliver eight Grand Final wins between 2004 and 2017.

Ahead of Saturday’s showdown at Old Trafford between Wigan Warriors and Catalans Dragons, ex-Leeds prop McDermott believes Matt Peet’s side could be set for a new era of dominance.

With all-conquering St Helens having been dethroned by Steve McNamara’s men in last week’s play-off semi-final, the French side have the opportunity to become only the fifth club to win a Grand Final.

But McDermott is edging towards a Wigan victory; not necessarily because he played for the Cherry and Whites either.

“Wigan have everything in place to win, but I’ll be going to Old Trafford on Saturday with an open mind,” the Sky Sports commentator and pundit told Love Rugby League.

“It’s the toss of a coin and, if Catalans can use all the motivating factors surrounding their team and draw on that emotion – and if Wigan are slightly off – then it could be a historic night.

“My thoughts are that, if both teams play to their potential then Wigan just have enough.”

‘Wigan are on the cusp of the next dynasty’

Regardless of the outcome this weekend, McDermott believes the Warriors could take some stopping in the coming years.

“I believe with all their young players that Wigan are on the cusp of the next dynasty,” he adds.

“It’s a shame that Kai Pearce-Paul is off to the NRL because I think there is loads of improvement left in him.

“But Sam Walters is coming from Leeds Rhinos next season and that’s a quality, ready-made replacement.

“When you consider the likes of Harry Smith, Jake Wardle, Tyler Dupree, Ethan Havard, Brad O’Neill, Morgan Smithies and young Harvie Hill, you’ve got players with 10 years in front of them.

“It looks like Wigan will have a better squad in 2024 than they have in 2023 – and that’s frightening.

“It should send shivers down the spines of the rest of Super League because Wigan Warriors are only going to get better.

“They could realistically be at the top table for the next decade and Saturday will tell us a bit about how good they are right now.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean they will go on and dominate in the coming years if they win or lose this weekend.

“But it’s good indication of how they can handle those bright lights.”

Barrie McDermott reflects on the ‘euphoria and relief’ when he won Grand Final with Leeds Rhinos in 2004

In any Grand Final week, McDermott cannot help but look back on the 2004 title decider when Leeds ended their 32-year wait for a league championship.

“I was 33 and right at the back end of my career in 2004,” remembers McDermott.

“I tried so many times to get there and once I’d got there and won it there was so much euphoria and relief.

“We did the trophy lift and I congratulated my team-mates but the first thing after that was to go and find my wife and our three kids.

“We’d been through so many highs and lows and I wanted to share that moment with my family.

“If you get the chance to lift that trophy at Old Trafford then you have to grab it the Grand Final is no place for losers.”

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