Meditation Retreats

Meet Matt Peet’s life coach who reveals what makes Wigan Warriors boss a cut above the rest

Talk to anyone in rugby league about Wigan Warriors head coach Matty Peet and the soundbites are always the same. “Impressive young coach… bit of a philosopher… just how good could this guy be?”

Well, the man who has been Peet’s life coach since he took charge of Wigan has his own take on the 38-year-old’s capabilities. The highly-regarded Craig White, a fellow Wiganer who has held numerous roles in elite rugby union during the past three decades, began working closely with Peet last year.

They hit it off instantly and have developed a relationship which sees Peet consult with 50-year-old White on a regular basis. White Rugby told League Live: “Matty’s obviously young, but the way he looks at things and wants to challenge the status quo, coupled with how open-minded and grounded he is, could take rugby league to a new level.

Read more:Major update on Regan Grace’s St Helens future as talks continue over new deal

“His family are hugely important to him so, as he grows older, he will become a real father figure for a lot of the Wigan players. How good can Matty be? Extremely good because he’s very open-minded, he’s a philosopher and he doesn’t want to do things in the run-of-the-mill way.

“Whilst he’s a proper Wigan lad and he recognizes the values ​​of the people to cultivate a deep sense of family, he looks beyond that. He can go to the Wigan St Pat’s club and have pie and peas and he can meet with me to contemplate deeper aspects of life. He can do both and is reaping the rewards.”

White grew up in Wigan playing rugby league and dreamed of making the grade professionally. He played for BARLA’s Great Britain Under-19s and went on tour to New Zealand with the likes of Barrie McDermott and Terry O’Connor.

“But I didn’t end up turning pro and I became instead a coach, which came naturally to me,” he explained. As a teenager, White met Phil and Andy Clarke, the latter of whom became one of the first professional conditioning coaches in rugby.

“When I was doing my degree, as BSc in Sports Science and my MSc in Exercise Physiology, I was working 25 hours a week with Phil and Andy,” remembered White. “I used to go with Andy to Wigan, Halifax, Featherstone and worked with rugby league referees and in rugby union at places like Orrell, Sale and Ireland.”

Craig White also runs Men without Masks

Upon graduation from university, white embarked on a hugely successful career in the 15-a-side code. Stints with vaunted organizations such as Wasps, Leicester and the British & Irish Lions followed.

“I’ve worked for World Rugby (rugby union’s governing body) for about 11 years now,” says White, who has earned ringing endorsements from the likes of Sir Clive Woodward, Shaun Edwards and Warren Gatland.

“I’ve been to World Cups and it’s 26 years now that I have been working as a coach/consultant in rugby union. I started off as a conditioning coach but broadened out into nutrition, the mental side of the game, and then leadership.

“Most of my work with teams now is on a consultancy basis and it involves looking at holistic performance specifically on mental skills and leadership development. My passion now is very much about leadership and growing groups of men which leads to more than just winning. It is about developing the character of individual men to realize their potential.”

Which brings us back to his work with Peet, the poetry-reading Wigan head coach whose reputation soared when his team lifted the Challenge Cup last month.

read more
read more

“I’ve actually not done that much work in rugby league, although I mentored Chris Baron and Mark Bitcon during their time at Warrington and Wigan, plus I helped Sean Long during our time together at Harlequins RU more recently,” said White. “A few years ago, Michael Maguire became the Wigan coach and asked me if I’d be interested in being the conditioning coach.

“I said ‘no, but I know who would be’ and I recommended Mark Bitcon, who was hugely instrumental in turning Wigan’s fortunes around. From a cultural and leadership perspective, I think Matty Peet could have a similar influence on Wigan now.

“In terms of actually working with a rugby league head coach, Matty is the first for me. He reached out to me last year and came over to Hebden Bridge near Halifax, where I live.

“We had a fascinating day together and he was interested in my holistic way of looking at things. I’ve got a rugby and physical conditioning background but also expertise in yoga, meditation, mindfulness, leadership and communication.

“I’ve been on my own journey of transformation, which helps me to understand people better. In terms of my self-development, I’ve done a lot of things which have absolutely no relation to rugby per se but have everything to do with people.

“I’ve sat in complete darkness on my own for 10 days, I’ve been in a fasting center in Costa Rica and drank nothing but water for 21 days. I’ve done meditation retreats where we don’t speak for 10 days; not because I’m mad, but because I want to understand myself better in weird and wonderful ways.”

Peet was impressed by White’s approach to performance, leadership and culture development.

“And I was impressed by his down-to-earth ‘Wigan-ness’ but also his willingness to take a risk and bring things into rugby league which other people might be scared of,” adds White. “He’s interested in mindfulness and taking a holistic view on getting the best out of people.

“I like Matt because for him it’s not about performance – it’s about developing people and he knows that if you get people to feel safe in themselves and trust each other then magic can happen. It’s a good relationship.”

White is speaking from America and his hectic works schedule takes him all over the world.

“Matty will come over to Hebden Bridge or we will chat on Zoom and he will just run things by me,” said White. “The week after Wigan won the Challenge Cup, we met up and he was asking me how to structure that week in terms of easing up or cracking the whip.

“He can tap into my experience and I always offer him advice based on how to get the best out of people. I like challenging Matty’s mind and we’re in regular contact.”

White is referred to as “the guru” by current Leeds Rhinos assistant coach Long. He also runs an organization called ‘Men without Masks’ which involves 20 men coming together for five-day retreats in Skipton, North Yorkshire to realize their potential.

White said: “A lot of rugby union coaches have CPD (Continuing Professional Development) built into their contracts and all Wigan’s staff have that too, hence why I am able to support Matty. Waney (Shaun Wane) sounded me out about helping England heading into the Rugby League World Cup, but our calendars don’t quite align, so it wasn’t viable in the end. I enjoy working with Matty, though, and hope the relationship will continue for some time yet.”

read more
read more

Related Articles