09 June 2024

It’s a pretty special squad we’ve got here – Liam Farrell reflects on Wigan win

09 June 2024

Liam Farrell wrapped up an historic Betfred Challenge Cup final win for Wigan at Wembley then hailed the “special” squad that has every chance of contributing more to his bulging trophy cabinet before he hangs up his boots.

The 33-year-old is one of the most decorated players of modern times having helped his home-town club to five Grand Finals, four League Leaders’ Shields, three Challenge Cups and two World Club Challenges since his debut in 2010.

So it seemed entirely fitting that Farrell should be the one to burst clear onto a sharp Jai Field off-load to effectively seal an 18-8 win against Warrington that makes Wigan the first side since St Helens in 2007 to hold all four of the above crowns concurrently.

“Only two other teams have done it before, and I remember watching those two teams, Bradford and Saints, when I was a kid,” said Farrell.

“We’ve got legends like Tommy (Leuluai) and Sean (O’Loughlin) on our coaching staff who have never done anything like this, and we’ve got players like Brad O’Neill who is 21 years old and has won everything.

“I think it’s extra-special now because we hold all four trophies. The Challenge Cup is so special to Wigan, so many people have memories of going to Wembley and watching finals. So for us to be able to bring those memories back to the town is a nice feeling.”

“I wanted to achieve a lot of things in my career but to win all four trophies (at once) is something else. It is a pretty special squad we’ve got here.”

Wigan’s history-making win was hardly one for the ages, their clinical approach alongside an underwhelming display from Sam Burgess’s Warrington ensuring it was a final that lacked the drama of Leigh’s golden-point win over Hull KR the previous year.

Instead it will be a final remembered for the tributes paid to Leeds great Rob Burrow, who was honoured with moments of silence and applause throughout the finals day, while his image adorned banners and big screens all the way down Wembley Way.

A wild first four minutes – in which Wigan’s Mike Cooper and Warrington full-back Matt Dufty were harshly sin-binned – promised much but the game delivered little more in terms of drama despite Josh Thewlis edging his side in front.

I wanted to achieve a lot of things in my career but to win all four trophies (at once) is something else. It is a pretty special squad we've got here

Burgess’s hopes of marking his high-profile coaching career with a famous win were slowly dashed through a combination of their own sluggishness and the brilliance of the likes of Bevan French, whose perfectly-timed grubber sent 20-year-old Zach Eckersley through for the opening try.

French touched down shortly after Warrington winger Matty Ashton spilled Harry Smith’s high kick, and although the Australian was marginally denied a second on the stroke of half-time due to double movement, the game’s momentum made Matt Peet’s men favourites to finish the job.

When Warrington captain George Williams was bundled into touch yards from the line at the start of the second half, his side’s hopes were effectively sunk, and Farrell streaked home to put the seal on a win whose 10-point scoreline scarcely does Wigan’s dominance justice.

Afterwards Farrell paid tribute to head coach Peet, who continued his own remarkable trajectory at the club by claiming his second Challenge Cup win in his three years in the role, and has been the architect of his side’s clean sweep.

“He connects everyone together,” said Farrell, who has played under three previous Wigan coaches. “If we’ve got ideas that we want to put forward, Matt is always one or two steps in front of everyone else. He leads by example and he just makes it so easy for all us players.”

For Warrington, it was a case of owning up to one of their worst performances of an otherwise encouraging season under Burgess, which sees them two points off the Super League summit and standing every chance of being big players in the post-season play-offs.

Ashton, who was a shadow of the star who sunk St Helens and Huddersfield to seal his side’s trip to Wembley, admitted: “What makes the defeat even harder for us is that we just didn’t play our own game.

“Everything we spoke about and planned to do, we went against it and made too many errors, and we killed ourselves. We’ve got to aim for the big one now, and start to build our game. We’ll come back stronger, I’m sure of it.”

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