Has it sunk in yet? Yes, that’s right – Wigan Warriors are the 2018 Super League Grand Final champions. For the fifth time since the Super League was formed back in 1996, Wigan are the cream of the crop. It is a great time to be a Cherries supporter.
Shaun Wane has now galloped off into the sunset aboard his majestic steed, and who can blame him? With three Grand Final triumphs during his tenure, he has more than earned the right to leave the DW Stadium exit door on his own terms.
Arch rivals St Helens were widely tipped for Grand Final glory this year but Justin Holbrook’s side crumbled when it mattered most of all. Wigan, on the other hand, did not. If anything, the Cherries got stronger.
Wane’s side were superb against the Castleford Tigers in the semi-finals, recording a 14-0 victory over one of the best attacking units in Super League. That result was a sign of things to come; the Warriors were going to win the title for 2018 Coach of the Year Wane.
And that they did, in a similarly ruthless fashion. Warrington Wolves raised a few eyebrows with that semi-final triumph away at St Helens and it got some Wigan fans concerned about a potential Grand Final defeat. They needn’t have worried.
Despite going behind to an early Josh Charnley score, the Warriors kept Warrington at arm’s length in a tight first half. Defence was the order of the day and that style of contest suited the Cherries more than their counterparts and it showed.
With Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards making a switch across to rugby league after the 2019 Rugby Union World Cup, next year could be quite strange for the Cherries. Adrian Lam will lead the Warriors on an interim basis but will Wigan live up to the hype?
Follow that. Life at Wigan after Wane for Adrian Lam next season and Shaun Edwards from 2020
— Chris Irvine (@Chrisirvine) October 15, 2018
Lam spent three years of his playing career at the DW Stadium and he will be determined to succeed in his interim role. With a few players exiting the Warriors this winter, Lam may have a much-changed squad at his disposal come February.
At the time of writing, most punters believe that Wigan will be in the mix for another shot at the Grand Final but St Helens are red hot favourites to win the Old Trafford showpiece. Even well before the 2019 campaign draws closer, the latest odds from moplay.co.uk have them as 7/2 favourites.
Fixtures will be announced in the coming months and Wigan should rest up now ahead of the new campaign. Lam has played and assisted under some of the best coaches in world rugby and that experience should help in his preparation and decision-making in 2019.
Wane’s departure and Edwards’ prior engagement with Wales at the Rugby World Cup could probably have been timed better but if anyone can cope with change, it is Wigan. The Warriors are Super League champions for a reason and they will leave everything on their field as they bid to retain that title.