Talking RL: Wane’s searching ‘all over’ for new winger

Josh Charnley is waving goodbye to Wigan at the end of the year
Josh Charnley is waving goodbye to Wigan at the end of the year

The guessing game has already started.

At the gym yesterday (yep, the gym, honest) they were discussing the merits of Justin Carney.

“What about Joe Burgess?” one asked me by the water fountain.

“He can’t get a game at the Roosters, can he?”

No, he can’t.

He’s been omitted from their first-team squad again this weekend, a snub made harder to understand given their winless start to the NRL campaign.

And the longer he is overlooked, the more it will fuel speculation of a return to Super League next year.

Wigan are losing two players – Dan Sarginson and Josh Charnley – at the end of this season, but I suspect they will only recruit one to replace them.

Oliver Gildart hasn’t yet been in the first-team for a year but he’s done enough to earn a shot at a starting centre berth.

His form kept him in the side for the Grand Final tilt last season, and his performances this year have shown no hint of the dreaded second-season syndrome.

The wing position is different.

Wane has academy-graduates to consider – not least Jack Higginson, who debuted last week – but there is room for reinforcements.

And the fact the Warriors offered Charnley a lucrative deal suggests they now have money to spend under the salary cap.

When I spoke to Wane this week he said they were conducting an exhausting search for a new outside back

Carney and Burgess are two obvious names who have been mentioned in various quarters.

Others include Brisbane’s Englishman Greg Eden – another out of favour in the NRL – and Wakefield’s 20-year-old Tom Johnstone, who has been in terrific form over Easter.

Johnstone, under contract with Wakefield, has a chance to catch Wane’s eye this Sunday.

But trying to predict who he will recruit is difficult.

Why? Because his past recruits have had such varied backgrounds.

Some have been established first-teamers. Some have fallen firmly into the ‘potential’ pile.

Some have been at the back end of their careers, others at the start.

Wane hasn’t brought in many players, yet those he has have come from London (Sarginson, Tony Clubb), Wales (Gil Dudson, Ben Flower), rugby union (Andy Powell), the Championship (Sam Hopkins), the NRL (Matty Bowen), New Zealand’s second-tier (Anthony Gelling) and, of course, other Super League clubs (John Bateman, Blake Green, Epa Lauaki, Taulima Tautai, Scott Taylor, Willie Isa).

Then, of course, there are the players he has lured back to Wigan (Lee Mossop, Joel and Sam Tomkins) from spells away.

Which suggests, when Wane says they are searching “all over” before making a signing, he’s not exaggerating!

Dan Sarginson is likely to become the ninth England player to ply his trade in the NRL next season.

There may be others, too, if Wayne Bennett decides to pick Aussies and Kiwis who qualify for the nation through the ancestry rule.

So with around half the squad based Down Under, I wonder if bosses will look at reviving the mid-season Test match Down Under.

Why not?

With fewer Super League players needing to travel, it’s feasible.

Our coach is even based in the NRL, so games against New Zealand or Australia wouldn’t be too much of a disruption.

In the wake of Charnley’s decision to switch codes, I hope league chiefs are looking at ways they can retain the game’s best stars.

And if you think the current international game is adequate, consider this: England have played Australia just twice in the last four years.

I’m too young to remember Mick Sullivan play but, by speaking to those who saw him, it was obvious he was a special talent.

Chairman Ian Lenagan’s voice picked up as he volunteered memory after memory of the winger.

His favourite story was when he was moved to stand-off to rattle St Helens’ star Alex Murphy, which he certainly did – they were both dismissed, and Wigan went on to reach the Championship final.

Sullivan missed the decider (against Wakefield) through suspension, but no one can say he didn’t play his part in that title success!

Wigan have more glamorous fixtures than Wakefield away - indeed, I’d argue all of them are - but I still expect a strong travelling support this weekend.

Why?

Incredibly, this is their only scheduled Sunday afternoon game all year.

The Super League clubs have struck a deal with the Rugby Football League to lay on free coaches for away fans going to Thursday night games.

On the surface, the move should be commended.

Thursday night games are great for TV, but not great for those supporters attending the game.

Many are at work that day, at work the day after, have families to consider... it’s no wonder crowds for the Thursday games are down.

Wigan fans can take advantage of the free coaches for the first time later this month, when they take on Warrington at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.

So far, so good.

But if you don’t want to stand up for the match, seating tickets for the game are £29.50 for adults.

That’s nearly £30! To watch a televised game!

Wouldn’t it have been a better idea to just cut ticket prices across the board to attract more fans to Thursday games?