Talking RL: Signs pointing to a top showdown

Dom Manfredi scores against Leeds
Dom Manfredi scores against Leeds

There’s every reason to think Wigan may just turn up tonight.

First, the obvious ones:

They’re in good form.

They’ve shown signs of improving each week.

They’ve at home, they always win.

They’re chasing their best start ever to a Super League campaign.

And there’s another factor, too.

Next week Wigan have their most eagerly-anticipated game of the year so far (yep, even more than Brisbane and Leeds) when they tackle St Helens in the Good Friday derby.

The Easter fixtures are early this year – something to do with the moon, if my vague RE memory is right – and all the Wigan players will want to be involved.

Especially the fringe ones, who have either little or no derby experience.

Now consider Joel Tomkins and Willie Isa may be back in the reckoning – and would seem certain to get places in the squad if fully fit – and you can see why those below them in the pecking-order will have an extra incentive to play well against the Vikings.

Ah, Dom Manfredi. Even the easily-offended had a chuckle at his double-slip in his Sky Sports interview on Friday night.

Swearing, and then realising his error and swearing again... it was funnier than Del Boy’s Chandelier scene.Little surprise his merciless team-mates quickly shared the clip on social media.

Dom has taken it in good spirits, and even made a donation to charity to go with his apology.

But his error highlighted why many journalists, like myself, can’t stand it when a colleague begins filming an interview. Because players are at their best when they’re themselves, relaxed, and speaking in a conversation.

Put a camera in front of their face and they - understandably - act differently, clam up, and worry about what they say.

As Dom will testify.

Many players have landed roles with the media but none quite like Cameron Phelps. The ex-Wigan utility back has returned home after eight years in the Super League and, while he’s still playing for NSW Cup outfit Mounties, he is also carving out an alternate career - writing stories for Daily Mail Australia.

His brother James is also a journalist. Welcome to the dark side, Phelpsy!

Super League leaders Widnes visit the DW Stadium tonight and the early indications are they will pose a real threat.

They’ve done really well this year, and their display against Hull FC a week ago was top-drawer.

Will they be able to maintain it and ‘do a Leicester City’?

I doubt it.

Injuries inevitably bite into squads during a long season (Widnes have been fortunate so far) and when they do, it’s often the clubs with the bigger squads which rise to the top.

Which is not to say I don’t wish them well.

I respect Denis Betts, I rate Kevin Brown, and I’m a fan of new teams mixing it up at the top of the ladder.

I’d love nothing more than welcoming another genuine, credible trophy contender to the mix – it makes the competition stronger, more interesting, and the sense of achievement of winning a trophy even greater.

I’ve seen some awful injuries in my time supporting and covering rugby league.

But none quite as teeth-grinding, eye-crunching and leg-crossing bad as the Australian player who nearly had his manhood ripped off during a game in France.

Carcassonne’s Haydyn Peacock was making a break when a UTC opponent made a desperate lunge to stop him – and dragged him to the ground by his penis.

“I showed all the boys and they were laughing,” he said. There’s sympathy for you. He needed 11 stitches to repair the damage but played the following week. More evidence why most of us – even if we had the skill-set – could never, ever be rugby league players.

Last week the speculation was about Dan Sarginson, this week it’s Josh Charnley.

It’s tempting to dismiss rumours as just that, but I’m told there is substance to Sale Sharks’ interest in the Wigan wingman.

Which is not to say he will go. Sure, union can offer more money, but it also offers wingers a greater chance of catching hypothermia from inactivity and boredom.

After last week’s mauling, Hull FC coach Lee Radford revealed he and his staff had been booted out of the dressing room by the players.

Some have taken that as a sign he has lost the dressing room - I’m not sure.

The media and, consequently, the fans only learned about it because Radford told them.

Would he have been so forthcoming if he felt he had lost control?

I imagine the answer will present itself when FC host Wakefield tomorrow night.

Quickly, questions from last weekend.

How did Catalans let Warrington off the hook? How did Justin Carney survive his return to Castleford? How long before Hull KR pick up a win? And how bad are Wakefield?