It is official: the 2017 Super League season is over. Wigan Warriors struggled to keep pace with the likes of Castleford Tigers and Leeds Rhinos throughout the regular season and Shaun Wane’s men will need to improve drastically in order to challenge for a spot in the Grand Final next year. Wane’s side have been there or thereabouts in recent times and will have confidence that a return to the top could be on the cards in 2018.
You could argue that Wigan are well placed to bounce back and challenge for Grand Final glory next year. Every senior member from 2017 has now agreed to re-sign with the club and that familiarity should help the Warriors throughout the regular season and beyond.
Defensively, the Warriors were far from assured in 2017. Wane’s unit conceded 518 points in 23 regular season fixtures, and only four teams allowed more through during that span. Injuries were costly for Wigan throughout the year, but it would be foolish to pin all of their problems on those issues. The fact of the matter is this: the Warriors weren’t good enough or consistent enough over the course of an entire season.
At the other end of the pitch, Wigan fared slightly better but were . Wane was quite clearly disappointed with his side at the end of the season and you’d be hard-pressed to find many Warriors fans who reckoned that Wigan deserved to go all the way to Old Trafford. There is little doubt that a chance to get back to the top will present itself again in the near future.
Wane moved quickly to acquire Gabriel Hamlin from the South Sydney Rabbitohs earlier this month and the exciting 20-year-old will help Wigan in their pursuit of glory. Hamlin’s versatility will appeal to Wane; he can line up as either a prop or loose forward. He could blossom into an elite talent in the coming years and he should have a major impact in Super League. Remember the name.
Keeping Sean O’Loughlin at the club for one more year was a primary target for the Warriors this season, and he will now play out the remainder of his career at his boyhood club. He joined the Super League giants in 2002 and has worked up his way up through the ranks; O’Loughlin is Wigan’s main man both on and off the field.
— Wigan Warriors 🍒⚪️ (@WiganWarriorsRL) October 9, 2017
He was the only Warriors player to make the Super League Dream Team in 2017 – and Wigan tended to struggle when he was out of action. In fact, Wane’s men failed to win any of their last eight Super League games of the season without O’Loughlin in the side. The Warriors have plenty of talented names, but O’Loughlin remains central to their success.
On the face of it, the 2017 Super League season showed just how competitive England’s top rugby competition is nowadays. The likes of Wigan, Warrington Wolves and St Helens, all of whom have dominated Super League in recent years, were all below par this season and that won’t happen again. With improved efforts from all three teams, Super League may be about to become even tougher.
The key for Wigan is consistency. Too many poor performances cost the Warriors dearly in the 2017 campaign; the vast majority of defeats were convincing. Wigan need to keep the scoreboard close in order to remain competitive in difficult games or else risk falling out of contention once again. In the end, Wigan lost 10 Super League encounters; an unforgivable number for a team looking to challenge.