Steeped in cherry-and-white culture since stepping through the doors of DW Stadium in 2008, Matt Peet applies a holistic approach to the major challenge of mastering next season’s Super League rivals Wigan.
Peet won the Challenge Cup and was named Coach of the Year in 2022 after setting a mark as a rugby buccaneer in his first season in charge, having completed his 13-year rise through the ranks by succeeding Adrian Lam as head coach last October.
But despite all the applause he received, Peet is acutely aware that his side have yet again failed to deliver the winning feats of St Helens, and the 38-year-old strongly believes that cultural development is crucial if his team is in to prevent the Saints from securing an unprecedented fifth straight crown next season.
“We have to improve, that’s all I know,” Peet told the PA news agency. “It’s not about Grand Finals, it’s about improving every day, the way we handle our media and our briefings, our nutrition and weight sessions – everything has to be better.”
Players returning for pre-season at the club’s Robin Park training complex have been sent on schools and other community outings, while lunchtime sees first-team stars rub shoulders with graduates of the academy and backstage and administrative staff.
The inclusive approach has become invaluable to Peet after more than a decade in which he has grown from his initial role as a scholarship coach, through the youth and community levels, to his appointment as as a performance coach in 2012, before the final stage last season.
“It’s about taking time out of the day, every day, to talk about how we’re doing, to talk about the quality of our relationships and the things that we may have let slip,” added Pete.
“Here, there are no bosses, everyone has an opinion and has the right to share their feelings. We invited a lot of former players and former staff, staff from the rest of the club, the media team, the chaplain. It’s very integrated and it’s about everyone in the club coming together to collaborate.
Peet has so far made minimal changes to his squad, bringing in centers Toby King and Jake Wardle from Warrington and Huddersfield respectively, although the retirement of Tommy Leuluai, who joined the squad from Peet’s coaches, raised the tantalizing possibility of a star-studded change. fullback Jai Field to a split in the halves.
Peet also admitted he was ‘disgusted’ to hear young fullback Kai Pearce-Paul has agreed a deal to join Australian NRL side Newcastle Knights at the end of the 2023 campaign – but says that Pearce-Paul will benefit from the Warriors mantra. of inclusion until he got on the plane to head Down Under.
“I’m disgusted that he’s leaving and I won’t hesitate to say that I love him to bits and wish he stayed,” Peet said. “But we have parked him now and he will be 100% part of this group until he leaves. He will always be a Wigan player and I want him to have fond memories of this place.
The trend of installing local coaches in the Super League continued during the tight season with Mark Applegarth taking over from Willie Poching at Wakefield, and Saints following Wigan’s lead in appointing top club Paul Wellens in place of the late Kristian Woolf.
Peet will have a good idea of how Wellens feels ahead of his inaugural season in charge and said he welcomes the current wave of appointments, which builds on the success of Paul Rowley and Ian Watson at Salford and Huddersfield respectively during the last campaign.
“I spoke to Paul and we shared some ideas,” Peet said. “We’re all under the same pressure no matter where we finished last season. I can’t worry too much about what they do, but obviously you wouldn’t expect them to change too much.
“I think Paul is a great guy and I love what’s going on with Ian, Paul and Mark. There has to be a pathway for young British coaches and I’m delighted about that. I’m delighted Paul got the post and I kind of understand how he’s going to feel about it.