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Kai Pearce-Paul confident Wigan have a squad that can overhaul St Helens

The 21-year-old Londoner is set for his final year at the DW Stadium.

Mark Staniforth
Friday 27 January 2023 13:19 GMT
Kai Pearce-Paul (centre) says he will not be distracted by his impending move Down Under (Zac Goodwin/PA)
Kai Pearce-Paul (centre) says he will not be distracted by his impending move Down Under (Zac Goodwin/PA) (PA Archive)

Kai Pearce-Paul is convinced he can sign off from Super League in style by helping Wigan Warriors overhaul four-time defending champions St Helens when the new campaign kicks off next month.

The 21-year-old Londoner is set for his final year at the DW Stadium having signed a two-year deal with NRL giants Newcastle Knights which begins in 2024.

But Pearce-Paul insists there is no danger of being distracted on the back of an encouraging first season under head coach Matt Peet, which brought a first Challenge Cup triumph since 2013.

“I feel like with my future being settled I can put my full focus on the team and I’ve still got a year to make a big contribution,” Pearce-Paul told the PA news agency.

“There has been interest from the NRL before but I chose to spend more time with Wigan because it’s such a great club, but it was time to look to the future.

“It wasn’t about the money or the lifestyle, it was about making sure I would get an opportunity in my favoured position at a time when I feel like I should be approaching my peak.”

Peet has made subtle changes to his playing squad ahead of the new top-flight campaign, which begins with a trip to Hull KR on February 18.

Rising star Morgan Smithies has been entrusted with the club’s prestigious number 13 shirt following the departure of John Bateman Down Under.

Centres Toby King and Jake Wardle arrived from Warrington and Huddersfield respectively, while former academy player Ryan Hampshire has returned after a gap of seven years to add to the strength in depth.

Arguably most importantly, star full-back Bevan French resisted the lure of returning to Australia and signed a two-year contract extension against expectations, and Tommy Leuluai stepped into Peet’s coaching staff after retiring as a player at the end of the last campaign.

“We had a great year last year, Matty came in and changed the whole culture of the club and it worked,” added Pearce-Paul.

“We were unfortunate to get knocked out in the semi-finals but for Matty to achieve what he did in his debut coaching year proved that things were going in the right direction.

“The mentality is still the same, but we’ve got the great Tommy Leuluai in there now and the additions of Toby and Jake in an area in which we probably lacked last year.

“It’s not a drastic change, but I think we’ll be stronger. We’re a strong squad and we’ve got a great relationship. We want to play and fight for each other and we’re confident that will pay off on the pitch.”

The changes continued on Friday with Warriors announcing that former full-back Kris Radlinski has stepped up to become the club’s new chief executive after nine years as executive director.

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