The 2012 season was relatively successful for the Wigan Warriors as they finished top of the Stobart Super League after a close-run campaign.
In his first season at the helm, Wigan-born Shaun Wane secured the Warriors their second League Leader’s shield in three years, but that success could not mask the fans’ disappointment in missing out on the Super League title.
A former player, with 150 appearances in Cherry and White, Wane was seen as the obvious choice to take the club forward following Michael Maguire’s departure to coach the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Expectation was high at the DW Stadium during pre-season as the club were looking to build on the success of Maguire’s short reign, which brought Wigan the Super League and Challenge Cup trophies.
Hard-hitting Tongan second-rower Epalahame Lauaki and Kiwi utility player Anthony Gelling also enjoyed their first seasons in the North West after they joined the club over the winter.
After returning from a pre-season training camp in Florida, the Warriors looked to hit the ground running in their January friendlies, which included a testimonial match against Huddersfield Giants for captain, Sean O’Loughlin.
Unfortunately the Giants ruined the party for the Wigan – who has played more than 200 games for the club – coming away with a 30-18 win, but despite the result the fans were delighted to see Warriors legend Kris Radlinski take to the field once more for the final 15 minutes.
Huddersfield proved to be somewhat of a bogey team for the Warriors early in the season, as they again took the spoils from the DW in the month’s Super League opener, edging Wane’s first game in charge 20-16.
Wigan did not have to wait long for their first win of the season as they convincingly defeated the 2011 Super League champions Leeds Rhinos 20-6.
Another two Yorkshire scalps were added when Bradford Bulls and Castleford Tigers found themselves on the receiving end of some fine performances as the Warriors put their opening day setback behind them.
Firstly Pat Richards’ haul of 16 points during the 54-16 thrashing of the Bulls took him to third in the Warriors all-time scorers list with only Jim Sullivan and Union convert Andy Farrell ahead of him.
Then in the 46-4 demolition at Castleford, full-back Sam Tomkins celebrated his 100th appearance in style with a superb hat-trick of tries.
It was a mixed month for Wigan, as good wins against French outfit Catalans Dragons, Super League new boys London Broncos and the Salford City Reds were countered by agonizing defeats to the Widnes Vikings and Warrington Wolves.
In one of the shocks of the season, the Vikings upset the odds the with an exceptionally close comeback 37-36 win against a depleted Warriors side, before title rivals Wolves secured the early season bragging rights with a two point victory at the DW.
The Wolves result was just the kick the Cherry and Whites needed, who followed up the damaging defeat with 13 straight wins, reaching the Super League summit by May.
Off the field, March also saw the DW Stadium selected as one of a number of North West stadia to host a quarter-final match of the Rugby League World Cup which graces these shores in 2013.
The first match in of the month was the most anticipated match on Wigan’s fixture list – the Good Friday derby against the old enemy, St Helens.
This was the first time the two sides had met at Saints’ new home of Langtree Park and it was the visitors who went home the happier, securing a well-earned 28-10 victory.
The month also witnessed the Warriors begin their bid to retain the Challenge Cup with a resounding 98-4 success over North Wales Crusaders before securing a quarter-final berth at the expense of Featherstone Rovers.
Despite an excellent period on the field, Wigan suffered tragedy off it when former player and physio Keith Mills passed away at the age of 68 after more than 40 years of involvement at the club.
The Warriors were also rocked with the news that talisman Richards – who passed the 2000 point mark for the club in March’s defeat to Warrington – would be side-lined for up to 12 weeks with knee problems.
A ‘magic’ month for Wigan saw them defeat rivals St Helens twice in as many weeks, firstly to secure passage through to the Challenge Cup semi-final followed by a thrilling encounter at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium for the sixth annual Magic Weekend.
The hard-fought 42-16 victory on Magic Weekend completed a hat-trick of wins over the Saints, but it came at a price as three Wigan players – Gareth Hock, Lee Mossop and Chris Tuson – all received suspensions while Harrison Hansen left the game with a broken jaw.
Sandwiched between the derby wins was a 32-12 success over Huddersfield, as the Cherry and Whites gained revenge for their early season upsets and replaced the Giants at the top of the league.
There was some disappointment in May as injury forced winger Amos Roberts to bring an end to his career – the Australian had played for St George Illawarra Dragons and Sydney Roosters before joining Wigan in 2008, but had not made an appearance for the first-team since April 2011.
Wigan handed Leeds their first 50-point defeat in 16 years with a 50-8 victory at Headingley – a result described by coach Wane as the ‘best we’ve played this year’.
Josh Charnley, Jeff Lima, Liam Farrell, O’Loughlin, George Carmont, Thomas Leuluai, Gelling and Brett Finch all ran over in front of an army of travelling fans – including Rio Ferdinand – to give the Super League and world champions their worst home loss for.
A week later the Warriors became the first side all season to beat the Catalan Dragons in Perpignan with a seven try haul.
But after heaping revenge on Widnes with a 54-12 win, Wigan’s 13 game unbeaten run came to an end courtesy of Bradford side fighting not only for the win, but for the survival of their club.
Wane described the loss against Bradford as just a blip and the Warriors proved that to be the case with a 52-10 demolition of Wakefield – Tomkins and Carmont both scoring hat-ricks to take Wigan five points clear at the top of league.
Wigan suffered Challenge Cup heartbreak at the Galpharm Stadium, missing out on a trip to Wembley after a reversal of last season’s final – Leeds producing one of their performances of the season to beat win 39-28
Despite having already done the double over the Rhinos in the Super League, Brian McDermott’s side capitalised on what Wane called Wigan’s ‘worst performance’ to deny the Warriors a chance to defend the title they won last August.
Tomkins two tries in the 48-10 win over Hull FC took him past the 500 point mark for Wigan.
A week later the Warriors suffered only their fifth league loss all season as Warrington closed the gap between first and second to just a single point.
The Wolves led from the start and tries for Iain Thornley and Hock were not enough for Wigan to salvage anything, taking the race for the League-leading shield to the wire with three matches of the regular season remaining
The Warriors secured the Super League-leaders shield for the second time in three years with a 38-6 demolition of strugglers Salford, followed by 36-42 win away at Hull KR.
Despite losing to St Helens in the final week of the regular season, Wigan finished at the summit of the Super League heading into the play-offs.
Wigan produced a devastating performance to reach the Super League semi-finals – demolishing the Catalan Dragons 46-6 at the DW Stadium.
Carmont – retiring at the end of the season –capped off a performance worthy of his four years with the Warriors with an impressive hat-trick.
Being the highest-placed team making it to the semi-final, Wigan chose to face Leeds through the ‘club-call system’ – the lowest finished side left in the competition and a club Warriors had not lost to in the league.
Leeds began firing on all cylinders to lead the Warriors 11-0 at half time, and despite tries from Harrison Hansen and Richards, Wigan missed out on a dramatic come-back.
Although Wigan were the most consistent side in Super League XVII, the loss meant the Warriors failed to reach a major final for the first time since 2009.
Wigan will be missing number of key players next season with Finch, Leuluai, Lima and Matthew Russell all leaving to join NRL clubs in 2013.
Stefan Marsh and Joe Mellor signed for Widnes while Stuart Fielden will play for Huddersfield next season, and Australians Carmont and Roberts have now retired from the sport.
Wigan will kick off the defence of the league-leaders shield against finically troubled Salford on February 1, after friendlies against at Hull KR and Championship side Leigh Centurions.