Wigan centre Zak Hardaker has described Wigan’s new lease of life as the club look to win trophies in 2022.
The DW Stadium side finished last season in fourth place, and were knocked out by Leeds in the play-offs at home.
The club open their 2022 campaign under new head coach Matt Peet away to Hull KR, and 2022 looks to be somewhat a new era for the club.
Peet is joined by Sean O’Loughlin and Lee Briers as assistant coaches. Shaun Wane also returns in a leadership and management role at the Warriors, alongside his head coach job with England.
While Hardaker doesn’t believe his side have failed as much as some have said in recent times, he does admit that wearing the Wigan badge means winning trophies.
Zak Hardaker on winning trophies and Wigan’s environment
He told Love Rugby League: “I think in the last couple of years, people have said we haven’t done that well. But we’ve made a grand final, semi finals and quarter finals, it’s not too bad.
“But Wigan as a club and as a town, you’re expected to win trophies with that passion. That’s why we signed with the club in the first place.
“This year, from the last couple of years, there has been a real, real work of the club. Working on all departments, meetings with sponsors, directors and as a team and squad really going back to basics in life. Asking ‘what can we create in this environment’ and to go one step further.
“I don’t know what the other boys will say, but I reckon the majority will say the same thing about how we all feel a part of a real organisation. We all feel tight and the bond is closer.
“Training has been different to change things up. Everyone has been enjoying coming into training and working hard.”
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Zak Hardaker on pre-season and Wigan’s new lease of life
Hardaker will wear the number three shirt for Wigan in 2022. He has missed the club’s pre-season games with Newcastle Thunder and Warrington due to an injury.
However, he insists he has been working hard on pre-season to be back to his best; something the club has also been working on.
“Obviously it’s really hard in pre-season. Some days are really long and tiring. But we’ve made it really clear that you’re alright to come in that mindset, but as soon as you come through the doors grabbing breakfast, it’s a different mentality that we need.
“I think that’s a big change up from the last couple years where we let that creep into our day, which is going into the week and maybe crawl into our game.
“We’re really trying to make that a real standing point that when we come to Wigan and walk through these doors, it’s work and it’s business.
Zak Hardaker: ‘A different feel about it’
“Everyone wants to work hard for each other. The bond that we’re all getting to each other. The new guys; I can’t really remember a response to a bunch of new guys that we’ve had as a club. They’ve fitted straight in. They are really good blokes, all of them.
“These last few weeks have been really good.
“Just watching from the sidelines doing my own rehab and a bit of running, watching from the sidelines and the boys on the pitch, I can tell it’s a different feel about it.
“We’re not getting too excited because obviously everyone will be the same boat. Everyone changes and tweaks made here and there. We’re no different.
“We’re just going to continue what we’ve been building on in pre-season and hopefully take that into this year.”
Speaking of his injury, Hardaker added: “The injury got to a point where it needed removing.
“A bit of a setback, but as they say, the comeback is always better than the setback. I’ve been working as hard as I can to get back. I feel pretty fit and pretty good.”