Talking RL: Words that keep Wane grounded

Shaun Wane

Shaun Wane

Shaun Wane used to think like many of us.

He’d celebrate fabulous wins, and he would mourn defeats. He would focus on the week-to-week, scrutinise what had just happened, think about the ‘here and now’.

Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington changed all that.

On June 1, 2012, Wane watched as his Wigan side ripped Leeds to shreds at Headingley.

Rio Ferdinand was in the dressing rooms afterwards as they celebrated a magnificent, unimaginable 50-8 win.

Nothing could burst Wane’s bubble. Or so he thought...

“And then Gary came to me after the game, shook my hand and said something like, ‘Wigan are playing well. Let’s see what you end up with’,” he revealed.

“I remember being annoyed at the time, but he was bang on.”

Six weeks later, Leeds knocked Wigan out of the Challenge Cup in a semi-final.

Two months after that, Leeds beat Wigan again to deny them a place in the Grand Final.

“I always remember that comment – it changed my thought process.”

Which is why, when Wigan are winning, he keeps his players grounded.

And when they lose, like they did to Widnes last Thursday, alarm bells don’t ring.

“It’s the same at every team,” said Wane. “Hull go to Catalans and win comfortably (by 38-10), and you think, ‘No one can beat Hull FC’. Then they get pumped at Widnes and people are saying different things,” he said.

“It’s a long, long year. Being consistent throughout the year is the challenge.”

Judging by some of the reaction to their defeat last week, you’d think the wheels had fallen off.

But look at the bigger picture, and Wigan are cruising along just fine.

Five wins from six is as good as any season in the Super League era, and the fact they can clearly improve is encouraging, not deflating.

It still feels like the season has not yet ‘got going’ yet. It all seems a bit tepid, a bit low-quality.

But last year highlighted the need to bank points early on, and Wigan are doing that.

The derby could just be the game which sparks the season into life.

There is a fierce rivalry between the sides, even if the friendship between Shaun Wane and Keiron Cunningham has removed much of the frostiness that previously existed.

Wigan’s middles have been travelling well this year and with the intensity ramped up tomorrow, it should make for a terrific contest.

The hope, of course, is that their attack clicks into gear as well.

Because even with so many key players out – and I’ll say it again, Wigan will not be at their best until mid-summer when Sam Tomkins is fit and firing again – they have the squad capable of threatening sides with the ball.

Wingers Josh Charnley and Dom Manfredi are exceptional at times, and you could make a case that centres Anthony Gelling and Oliver Gildart have been their most eye-catching players this year.

If Wigan can keep their errors and penalties down and dominate St Helens down the middle, they should have enough firepower to win the derby – and stretch their run to seven straight Good Friday triumphs.

The scary sight of Sam Burgess going down with a neck injury was, understandably, the main talking point from Souths’ 8-6 loss to St George Illawarra.

But anyone who caught the game will have seen one of the funniest moments in recent rugby league history.

Trailing by two points, in the final play of the game, Greg Inglis overruled his halfbacks and demanded the ball... so he could attempt a drop-goal!

It left the usually quick-witted commentator Andrew Voss speechless.

Inglis presumably thought the sides were level when he went for the one-pointer. It’s just a shame the ball didn’t go between the uprights – I would have loved to see him celebrate!

The Super League table usually takes shape after Easter.

Why? Because those with the stronger squads usually cope with the demands easier – three games in one week is a tester for them all, but especially those with little depth.

After six rounds, no-one has yet taken a grip of the competition.

Indeed, take out bottom side Wakefield, and maybe Hull KR, and there are 10 sides with little splitting them.

Leeds and Huddersfield are currently in the bottom four, but it’s hard seeing that continuing. But with Salford, Catalans and Hull FC all showing encouraging signs this year, they may not be easily overtaken.

It will be interesting to see how the next week unfolds.

I’ve heard quite a few people question the logic of taking the Four Nations final to Anfield.

The tournament starts in seven months; it’s ridiculous, though not surprising, that we haven’t got the fixtures and venues yet.

Liverpool’s ground has been considered for the showcase decider – and some aren’t happy about it.

Personally, I’d quite welcome somewhere new. It would certainly beat Leeds’ Elland Road.

And it’d be nice to have a ground up north, close to the league heartland, given London and Coventry are shaping as venues for other games.

The Olympic Stadium seems to be the favoured option for England’s game against Australia; shame, because I wasn’t impressed with the vacuous ground last year. And what about taking a double-header to Coventry. Coventry!

But my football writing colleague Paul Kendrick assures me the Ricoh Arena is a fantastic venue, a good size (33,000 capacity) and situated on a swish complex with a hotel, casino, bars and restaurants.