WAKEFIELD TRINITY head coach Chris Chester believes Wigan Warriors are now the best team in Super League and, 17 years after leaving the famous club, wishes he had made more of his own opportunities there.
The former Hull KR chief takes his side to DW Stadium tonight to face opponents who produced one of the finest performances of the season when winning 30-10 at leaders St Helens last Friday.
Saints have been top of the table for most of the season and remain favourites to go on and triumph at Old Trafford.
But Chester said: “They (Wigan) are the best team in the competition. I said four or five weeks ago Saints were but the way Wigan are playing now – the way they’re shifting the ball, have a lot of personnel back, George Williams playing particularly well, Sean O’Loughlin back – they are the side.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if they went on and won the Grand Final. It’d be great for Waney (head coach Shaun Wane) to leave on that note.
“It will be tough for us – we know that – and I’m just hoping that derby game has taken a lot out of them.”
Wigan are closing in on second spot and, given his own experience there, Chester is well-placed to offer insight into what it is like to play for one of the sport’s most prestigious names.
When still just 20, he joined them from Halifax in June 1999, in a joint-transfer with Gavin Clinch worth £140,000.
Chester played 45 games for Wigan before being unexpectedly moved to Hull KR.
He explained: “It’s a really, really good club. I really enjoyed my time there and if I had my time again I would do a lot of things differently. I always get on at my guys here about being professional but I was probably one of the last in to training and one of the first to leave when I was at Wigan. It was a real kick up the backside for me when they released me after two and a half years. I still had a year left. But I learned a lot of things .
There is a lot of pressure there; they expect to win every single week. Having said that, as soon as I signed, the first thing one of the fans said was I’m not bothered how we go this year as long as we beat St Helens.Chris Chester
“I look back with real fond memories. I played in two Grand Finals. I did not manage to win either of them but just to walk out at Old Trafford was something very special.
“There is a lot of pressure there; they expect to win every single week. Having said that, as soon as I signed, the first thing one of the fans said was I’m not bothered how we go this year as long as we beat St Helens. That’s how important that game is to the Wigan people.
“I’ve still a lot of friends there and speak to Kris Radlinski quite regularly. I’ve nothing but admiration for a great club.”
For all of Wigan’s title hopes, Wakefield have ambitions of their own – chasing down Huddersfield Giants to claim fifth spot for a second successive season. They ended their rivals’ six-game winning run and top-four hopes with a stunning 42-16 win at Huddersfield last Friday and Chester is now looking for more of the same.
“It was probably the best we’ve played all season,” he said.
“To get a result against the in-form team in the comp’ at their place as well and considering the people we had out made it a very special performance.
“But we need another big one now if we’re to get anything from Wigan.”
Chester will give Kyle Wood until today to prove his fitness with an arm/wrist injury which, although not broken, is causing the hooker problems. Joe Arundel stands by to come in.