Super League 2024: Can champions Wigan Warriors bridge the town's rugby league and football divide?

Discuss all things Wigan Warriors. Comments and opinions on all aspects of the club's performance are welcome.
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josie andrews
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Super League 2024: Can champions Wigan Warriors bridge the town's rugby league and football divide?

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Wigan have enjoyed success on and off the field during Matt Peet's first two seasons in charge, but the head coach knows there is plenty work more to do in both areas; Watch every match of the 2024 Betfred Super League season live on Sky Sports

Matt Peet has only ever known Wigan Warriors as a team which regularly appears in finals and wins trophies. That is why it is no surprise to him about the expectations the fanbase have expressed to him when he is out in the town.

Rather than congratulations for last year's Betfred Super League Grand Final success, the focus is firmly on the upcoming World Club Challenge clash with NRL champions Penrith Panthers at a sold-out DW Stadium on February 24.

The victory over Catalans Dragons at Old Trafford last year came on the back of Peet's first season as head coach in 2022 which saw Warriors win the Betfred Challenge Cup, although the 39-year-old is fully aware there is still plenty more work to do.

There's a vibrancy, but it's less about the fact we're champions and more about the fact we get to play Penrith," Peet told Sky Sports. "That's what people are talking about.

"They're not saying, 'well done, you're champions'. They're telling us, 'you'd better beat Penrith' and telling us how many tickets they've bought and how great it's going to be.

"It's far from job done, it's job just beginning."

The fact around 25,000 tickets were sold for the showdown with Penrith, Australian champions for the past three seasons, five weeks in advance is another sign of how the Warriors have strengthened the links between themselves and the community of the Borough of Wigan.

Much like the work on the field though, that remains an ongoing process and there is one big divide which remains to be bridged. Namely, the long-standing one between the rugby league club and the football team they share the DW Stadium with, Wigan Athletic.

Relations between the two seemed to be irreconcilably soured in 1987 when the leader of Wigan's rugby revolution Maurice Lindsay said of Athletic, ahead of an FA Cup quarter-final with Leeds United: "They're a very successful, thriving little club. They've done almost everything right…but they've chosen the backyard of rugby league to do it in."

Lindsay would express regret at those comments shortly before his death in 2022 and now both clubs now under the ownership of Mike Danson, the Wigan billionaire is keen to foster closer links on and off the pitch.

"He wants to try to mend this broken relationship between football and rugby which has been there for 30-odd years, and I'm determined to work on," Warriors chief executive Kris Radlinski told Sky Sports.

I think it's about messaging and communicating with both sets of fans that this is about the town of Wigan now. It's not about the football club or the rugby league club, it's about supporting people from the town of Wigan.

"We have to be stronger if we do that together, which we'll do. I'd love to get more fans of each side supporting each other and wishing each other well when we do things, but we're not there yet."

It is a viewpoint Peet shares, but he sees it as benefitting the town as a whole whether people support the Warriors or not, knowing there are economic benefits and just contributing to a sense of civic pride if both teams are enjoying success.

There have been occasions in the past where the clubs have celebrated each other's triumphs, notably in 2013 when Wigan became the first place to have teams holding the FA Cup and Challenge Cup at the same time.

Peet has struck up a strong working relationship with Latics manager Shaun Maloney since Danson took ownership as well, with the pair regularly meeting to swap ideas and discuss approaches which can be applied across two different sports.

"First and foremost, he's a good man, very welcoming, and very respectful of our game, but also he's very intelligent around sport and coaching," Peet said of Maloney.

"He's a curious coach, he's a modern coach, and he's worked with some outstanding individuals. He's got a strong value and ethos which is very similar to what we have. They're very easy conversations and I look forward to building on that friendship.

"I think we speak probably more about man management and managing individuals in a team set-up, and I think that's both ways. That's culturally what you talk about. We're in a team sport, but it's how can you best manage your players?"

As someone who was inspired by Wigan's regular trips to Wembley and trophy-laden glory days from the late 1980s to mid-1990s, Peet knows the importance of ensuring his team are visible in the community to build the same sort of enthusiasm among future generations.

But at the same time, he knows the Warriors must keep getting results on the field to attract support as well. Victory over Penrith and defending their Super League crown - a defence which begins away to Castleford Tigers on February 17 - would go a long way towards driving that.

"It goes together hand in hand - it's a cycle," Peet said. "The more we immerse ourselves in the town, the better our players become. They realise who they're playing for, they win more games, and then the town has our back as well.

"We help the town and the town helps us, and it'll just keep continuing like that. There will be good times and bad, but at the moment we're looking forward to a really fantastic occasion and I do think selling that game out as quickly as we did is testament to the work we're doing on and off the field.

"If we were doing community work but not playing good rugby, we wouldn't be selling out and if we were playing good rugby but weren't among the community, we wouldn't be selling out."

Watch Wigan Warriors open the 2024 Betfred Super League live on Sky Sports away to Castleford Tigers on Saturday, February 17 (5.30pm kick-off). Also stream contract-free with NOW.

https://www.skysports.com/rugby-league/ ... all-divide
Anyone can support a team when it is winning, that takes no courage.
But to stand behind a team, to defend a team when it is down and really needs you,
that takes a lot of courage. #18thMan
josie andrews
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Joined: Sun Jun 10, 2007 10:17 pm
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Re: Super League 2024: Can champions Wigan Warriors bridge the town's rugby league and football divide?

Post by josie andrews »

Wigan Warriors renaissance and reinventing Super League - Kris Radlinski's honest take

We caught up with Wigan Warriors CEO Kris Radlinski to talk all aspects of his club and the health of the wider game

Rugby league fans are sick of hearing that the sport is on the cusp of a brighter future. But, whisper it quietly. This time, it might actually be true.

False dawns have been common, but as a new era dawns, there's plenty to be excited about. Attendances were up last year, and memberships are on the rise pretty much across the board. Benefactors are emerging at clubs and of course, every single Super League game will be broadcast around the world.

Wigan Warriors are a good example of the upward trajectory the sport is currently enjoying. Their membership sales are up 18 percent, and they sold out the World Club Challenge four weeks in advance of the game taking place. Beyond that, they are now owned by a billionaire in the shape of Mike Danson.

"I do think we're on the cusp of something really good," Warriors CEO Kris Radlinski said. "We had a Super League meeting recently and we were hearing about how memberships were up across the board. There does seem to be a really strong vibe around the sport.

"We've sold the World Club Challenge four weeks in advance of the game; I've not known excitement for a game since we played Manly in 1987. Pretty much every club has had a warm-weather training camp. You might wonder what relevance that has, but that's a good indication because they're not cheap.

"Off the back of reduced distributions and incomes, I do sense there's some real positivity out there and we need to capitalise. I've enjoyed reading comments from supporters of other fans saying how pleased they are that we've sold out. Let's have more of that, talking up the good things that are happening rather than the doom and gloom we usually speak about."

But what has brought on this new-found optimism? Radlinski believes he has the answer.

"For many years, we've had people beating us down, saying we can't do that. Now the narrative is changing to 'we need to do this'. For many years I think we've been afraid of what's out there, but realistically, if we don't adapt and move, we'll get left behind. We're having conversations about where we will be in three or four years rather than where others will be with innovation and investment at multiple levels.

"It's a responsibility for us all to do that and it's easier said than done as not all clubs have benefactors that can do that. But if you look at our revenues, we've sold out the World Club, which will be financially very attractive to us. Memberships are up and we've just rented out our facilities for new revenue streams such as concerts, which allows us to be more adventurous.

"There were moments of excitement and pure sporting drama unlike we've had, and I think that helps. What Leigh did at Wembley has to spark interest. If I speak about Wigan for a moment, we're fortunate to have players who are genuine superstars, up there with Jason Robinson, Ellery Hanley and Martin Offiah.

"We've got to capitalise on that, but if you look at other teams, there are loads of narratives behind players as well. I get the sense that people are getting really excited. It's our job to keep that flow of excitement going."
Anyone can support a team when it is winning, that takes no courage.
But to stand behind a team, to defend a team when it is down and really needs you,
that takes a lot of courage. #18thMan
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