It’s just over five weeks since Wigan Warriors defeated Catalans Dragons to lift the Grand Final and at the heart of that win were two industrious English forwards, Kai Pearce-Paul and Morgan Smithies, both of whom will be playing in the NRL from 2024.
Whilst Harry Smith’s kicking game controlled the territory and the tempo of the game he was only able to do so off the back of the excellent work in the pack from his forwards.
It’s something that has become synonymous with Matt Peet’s Wigan side, tough tackling with intense line speed built on the back of it to help the Cherry and Whites swarm and suffocate their opposition.
Many fans have commented on the impressive pack that Wigan have put together for the 2024 campaign with Peet’s side having added the likes of Sam Walters from Leeds, ex-St Helens man Luke Thompson from the NRL and youngsters such as Tiaki Chan and Sam Eseh from Catalans and Wakefield Trinity respectively.
Add in their new hooker Kruise Leeming and the fact that Tyler Dupree will be having his first full season at the DW and it makes Wigan’s forward pack among the most feared in Super League, however they have lost two of their star players.
Both Kai Pearce-Paul and Morgan Smithies will be playing in the NRL in 2024, Londoner Pearce-Paul having agreed a deal with Newcastle Knights back in 2022, whilst Smithies landed a move to Canberra Raiders during this off-season.
It’s hard to estimate the massive loss the pair will be but if you take Pearce-Paul’s word for it, then Smithies will seemingly be close to irreplaceable.
The second-rower has been speaking to the Daily Telegraph down under discussing Canberra’s new recruit, whom he has labelled ‘one of the best players’ he has ever played with.
“I would say Morgan is one of the best players I have ever played with,” Pearce-Paul told the Daily Telegraph.
“He is skilful and he has all the ingredients but the big thing with Morgan is his work ethic – he will make 65 or 70 tackles a game on average.”
Smithies showed that effort during the Grand Final and did earn himself a call-up to the England squad ahead of the third and final test, however he didn’t feature for Shaun Wane’s side.
Pearce-Paul is clearly excited to line up against him in 2024 though as he continued to hail the work rate of the loose forward.
“He will do the hard work … the work you don’t look at when you are on TV. You don’t realise it but we come into training and his statistics are through the roof.
“He plays 80 minutes in the middle, he works hard for his teammates and I think everyone can say if there is one player you trust, you trust Morgan, he is always working, he never gives up. One of the best players I have played with in my life.”