New Wigan recruit Jake Wardle was able to put months of uncertainty behind him after signing a three-year contract with the club; the 2023 Betfred Super League season kicks-off in February live on Sky Sports
Last Updated: 31/12/22 11:23am
Back in May, Jake Wardle was a spectator as Huddersfield Giants suffered an agonising last-gasp defeat to Wigan Warriors in the Betfred Challenge Cup final.
A rollercoaster seven months later, however, the centre finds himself preparing to don the Cherry and White shirt of the Cup holders and this year’s Betfred Super League play-off semi-finalists for the 2023 campaign.
An ankle injury and the form of Ricky Leutele and Leroy Cudjoe contributed to Wardle being limited to just six appearances for the Giants in 2022, including not making the matchday 17 for the club’s first Challenge Cup final appearance in 12 years. The signings of Kevin Naiqama and Esan Marsters for the year ahead further underlined his place down the pecking order too.
Wardle was subsequently loaned out to struggling Warrington Wolves in July for the remainder of the Super League season, yet the lingering uncertainty the 24-year-old was facing about his future dissipated when Wigan came in for him.
“The back end of the year when I went on loan, my future was a bit up in the air,” Wardle, who was confirmed as having signed a three-year contract with the Warriors in October, told Sky Sports.
“To finally get a three-year deal over the line was massive for me. It settled everything down and I can look forward to playing rugby again next year.
“It was unbelievable. The club speaks for itself with the success it has had, so to want me as a player and as a person, it’s something I’m very grateful for.”
Jake Wardle capitalised on a mistake from Arthur Romano to give Warrington Wolves the lead over Catalan Dragons at the 2022 Magic Weekend
In an odd twist, Wardle will likely form a centre partnership at Wigan in 2023 with Toby King – the man Huddersfield brought in from Warrington for those final months of last season as part of a loan-swap deal.
As much as can be read into anything like squad numbers, the fact the duo have been given Nos 3 and 4 for the coming season would seem to indicate they are Warriors head coach Matt Peet’s first-choice combination in the three-quarters, with the experienced Iain Thornley an option too, and second-row duo Kai Pearce-Paul and Willie Isa able to slot in at centre if needed.
For his part, Wardle has settled quickly into life under Peet’s regime and has found out some preconceived ideas about how the Wigan team acquit themselves formed from coming up against them in the past have proven to be correct.
“Every club and every team want to build a culture, but I feel like since I’ve been here it has taken it up another level,” Wardle said.
The club speaks for itself with the success it has had, so to want me as a player and as a person, it’s something I’m very grateful for.
Jake Wardle on signing for Wigan
“Everything is about that culture and I’m really looking forward to being part of it.
“You can just see the togetherness of the squad when they play and to go back to that Challenge Cup final, winning at the end showed their togetherness they had as a group and the belief they had in each other.”
Seeing the Challenge Cup in the trophy cabinet at the DW Stadium and when taking it out to schools in the area as part of the club’s ‘Warriors Together’ community programme in December serves as extra motivation for Wardle to be part of a trophy-winning team.
It goes without saying Wigan are eager to retain the Cup in 2023 for what would be a record-extending 21st triumph in rugby league’s most prestigious knock-out competition, not to mention break the stranglehold rivals St Helens have had on Super League for the past four seasons.
Wardle is confident the ability he has seen in the squad, which includes last season’s leading try-scorer Bevan French and Man of Steel nominee Jai Field, will ensure the Warriors are fighting it out for honours again in 2023.
“My goal is to win it [the Cup] again this year and we’re capable of doing that,” Wardle said.
“The culture we’ve got and the squad we’ve got, I want to be a part of it and do what we can and bring my best to the team.
“That’s my goal in the three years I’m here – I want to win as much silverware as I can. We’ve got the squad to do it, so hopefully we can get some more silverware this year.”
The 2023 Betfred Super League season kicks-off in February with two fixtures from Round 1 live on Sky Sports. Grand Final runners-up Leeds Rhinos travel to Warrington Wolves on Thursday February 16, followed by promoted Leigh Leopards hosting Salford Red Devils on Friday February 17.