O'Loughlin targets more success
Wigan captain admits expectations are higher but believes squad is stronger
Last Updated: 08/02/11 10:51am
O'Loughlin: Wigan looking stronger
Wigan captain Sean O'Loughlin believes the Warriors can go from strength to strength this season after recording their first Super League success for 14 years.
The Warriors go into Saturday's opening fixture of the new season against St Helens as narrow favourites to retain the title they won at the expense of their arch rivals at Old Trafford in October.
O'Loughlin acknowledges that Wigan's status as champions makes them the side every team will want to beat but with the addition of international forwards Jeff Lima and Ryan Hoffman - in addition to their Melbourne Storm team-mate Brett Finch, who misses the start of the season through injury - he thinks they are stronger this year.
He also points to the further development of the club's young players and believes their first Grand Final triumph since 1998 has merely whetted the appetite for success.
"There wasn't much expectation on us last year so I suppose teams might raise their games a bit more but, if we concentrate on what we do as a group, we can give ourselves the best chance of reaching finals again," said O'Loughlin at the season's launch at Old Trafford.
"I think all round we're looking stronger. We've brought three quality players in but the younger lads have got a bit more experience under their belt and we've got some new, young faces who have come into the squad.
"There is definitely more expectation this time but the pressure on us comes more from within the organisation.
"A few of the Melbourne lads have won things but there only Deacs (Paul Deacon), Martin Gleeson and Stu Fielden who had won things and for the majority of the side it was the first taste of silverware and it's made everybody hungry to do it again."
Despite Wigan's success last year, O'Loughlin is loath to make comparisons with the all-conquering side that dominated the game in the late 1980s and early '90s.
"We don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves," he said. "We've won one competition; to get compared with past Wigan sides we've got to go a lot further.
"That's what the group wants to do - win trophies year in, year out.
"We feel like we've got the set-up and the side that can try to do that."
Meanwhile, St Helens joint captain Paul Wellens believes his side are adequately prepared for the opening game despite the absence of new head coach Royce Simmons.
Simmons has returned home to Sydney to visit his ill father, leaving assistant coach Keiron Purtill to finalise preparations for the Wigan game, although the Australian hopes to be back in the country on Thursday.
"Royce has spoken to the boys and given us a clear indication of what he expects and what is needed," said Wellens.
"We know what we need to do and Keiron Purtill, who takes over for a few days, has a wealth of experience in coaching now so I don't think there is any disruption."