Super League Grand Final: Bevan French benefits from Wigan Warriors coach's confidence
The Man of Steel nominee explains how Adrian Lam has given him the confidence to express himself on the field in 2020. Watch Wigan Warriors face St Helens in the Super League Grand Final live on Sky Sports Arena from 7pm on Friday
By Marc Bazeley
Last Updated: 26/11/20 4:52pm
It is difficult to understate just how much of an impact Bevan French has made during his first full season with Wigan Warriors.
The headlines are that the full-back ended the regular season as leading try-scorer for the League Leaders' Shield winners along with being the competition's joint-second highest try-scorer and was among the five players nominated for Man of Steel.
That is before you get to the fact French has made more metres from kick returns (964), more initial breaks (27) and more tackle busts (106) than any other player in Super League during the 2020 campaign as well.
Those performances have helped propel Wigan to an 11th Super League Grand Final appearance, and French put his displays down to head coach Adrian Lam giving him the confidence and freedom to express himself on the field.
"There have been quite a few little things he has helped me with along the way, like lines [of running], certain things in certain parts of the field like my positioning," French said.
"But above all he's just shown the confidence in me to go out there and let me do what I want.
"He's given me that free-roaming [role] to go wherever I like and to get that confidence and blessing from him gives me confidence to get on the ball as much as I can - and the more I get on the ball, the more confidence I gain."
French showed plenty of glimpses of what he was capable of with a string of eye-catching appearances off the interchange bench when he arrived at Wigan from NRL side Parramatta Eels midway through the 2019 season.
Even so, few would have predicted he would usurp Zak Hardaker as the Warriors' first-choice full-back ahead of this year - particularly as Hardaker claimed the player of the season, players' player of the season and community player of the season awards for the club in 2019.
Lam's decision to hand French the No. 1 role and shift Hardaker to the centre has proven an inspired decision though and the Australian believes not being made first choice immediately served him well in the long run.
"I think I was only averaging 15 or 20 minutes a game at the end of last year," French said. "It was a good way to learn the system and about the team, and to watch from afar and certain players on the field to see how they play.
Above all he's [Adrian Lam] just shown the confidence in me to go out there and let me do what I want.
"It was more of a study thing and on the back end of that, I wasn't expecting to come in and walk straight into the starting side, especially when you go back 12 months and look at the form Zak was in.
"Seeing him being so good gave me that little motivation to come into this year and try to be the best I could be, because I didn't want to let Adrian down as well after giving me that shot with the year Zak had last year."
Claiming the Super League title in Friday's Grand Final clash with St Helens at the KCOM Stadium, which is live on Sky Sports, would be the perfect end to an impressive year for French.
His match-up with Saints full-back and fellow Man of Steel nominee Lachlan Coote is just one of the head-to-heads which has the pundits salivating as well, although it was French who came out on top when the sides met in the regular season at the end of October.
The 24-year-old scored a try and was named man of the match in the 18-6 win, and has already learnt just how much these derby encounters mean and how intense they can be even though Friday's showpiece will be played behind closed doors.
"It's a crazy atmosphere, even without a crowd there," French said. "The build-up to games with Saints, it's good to be a part of and it's a good experience to have.
"Coming from Australia, I wasn't too sure about the local derby and what it meant to them, but it means so much to both sides, the players, the coaching staff and I know here in Wigan the community as well.
"It's always going to be a high-intensity game because of those reasons, but you always have to be at a high intensity because of the players they've got in their squad as well. It makes it a really good match-up."