MATT Peet admits he had written off calling on Bevan French as he gets ready for that difficult second season as Wigan coach.
But the fact he did not head back to the NRL is as much a boost for Super League as it is the Warriors.
The Australian superstar had the chance to go back to Newcastle Knights after establishing himself as one of the best on this side of the world.
After seeing his mother lose her battle for life, it was almost assumed French would return to his homeland.
But he signed a new two-year deal, much to many people’s surprise – not least his boss’.
Peet, who is keeping cool over rumours England back rower John Bateman is NRL-bound, admitted: “Keeping Bevan is big for the team, the club and the league.
“I definitely thought he was going to go. I’d always known from chatting to him his ambition was to go back to the NRL.
“This opportunity came up, so I thought he’d take it – then he swung around and said he wanted to stay.
“The impact the fans, his team-mates and the club made on him meant he decided Wigan was the right place for him for the foreseeable future.
“I can see why. He’s loved here and I was made up when he was secured for another few years. He’s a good man and is a pleasure to work with.
“With what he went through with his family, we all wanted to look after him and the fact he’s chosen to stay shows we did a good job.
“We have a big thing of controlling what we can control and not getting too stressed about the rest.
“When I’m coaching, recruitment and retention doesn’t get discussed until formal meetings between myself, Kris Radlinski, Ian Lenagan and Shaun Wane, either at the end of the day or on days off.”
French staying means Wigan still have two thrill seekers as they look to build on Peer’s debut season, which saw him lift the Challenge Cup but lose a Super League semi-final.
One thing there will not he, though, is pressure on Jai Field to repeat his stellar 2022.
And changes to the backroom staff, with playing legend Thomas Leuluai replacing Brisbane-bound Lee Briers, can also help – with the Kiwi, arguably Super League’s hardest ever tackler, and Sean O’Loughlin, no-one can turn around and say, ‘Well, what have you done?’
Peet added: “I quite often comment to our half backs about working with Tommy on their defence. When he was playing, I’d joke with him about how I’d sort his tackling technique out!
“He’s applying himself as a coach as he did as a player. He was with New Zealand at the World Cup and has come back with some good ideas.
“With him and Sean, there’s a high level of knowledge and trust between them. I say to the team a lot, ‘Be like these two.’ They’re not just great players but role models in life.
“We’ve gone along the route of doing similar things we did last year but just doing them better – a little bit faster, sharper and more accurately. We’re making a better version of it.”
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