Talking Sport - May the force be with them

Phil Wilkinson
Phil Wilkinson

MAY is shaping up as a challenging month for double-winners Wigan Warriors.

None of the games are at the DW, and what games they are – two battles against Leeds and away days at Hull FC, cashed-up Salford and last year’s league leaders Huddersfield.

Five games. Five on the road. Even their return to the DW in June is far from a gimme – a Challenge Cup encounter against high-flying Castleford.

Wigan’s fixture list so far may have been largely underwhelming, punctuated by the occasional big game, but it’s about to step up a notch.

And that begins on Friday with a mouth-watering test at Headingley.

I’ve yet to watch a boring game between Wigan and Leeds, even in defeat, and this promises to be no different.

Home advantage and form may make Leeds the favourites, but Shaun Wane’s men thrive on being underdogs.

They’ve already won at Warrington and St Helens – it would be great to kick-off their month on the road with a third big scalp.

IT’S a shame the RFL has given the England coaching job to someone working 10,000 miles away. Because if there was a mid-season international, against France or the Exiles, it would be interesting to see who would get the wing spots.

Ryan Hall, Tom Briscoe and Josh Charnley served the nation well during the World Cup, while St Helens’ Tom Makinson must be pushing them close. And if Joe Burgess continues his rise, he surely must come into the reckoning. I know he’s only 19, but he’s been one of the success stories of the season. A good performance against Briscoe, at Headingley, on Friday night would only boost his chances.

THE NRL is a better-standard competition which is watched by more people.

But don’t think the administrators are any better.

Their own commission chairman John Grant has apologised after publicly calling the Manly Sea Eagles the ‘Seagulls’ and the Cronulla Sharks the ‘Hawks’!

WIGAN’S sporting success is about much more than football and rugby league. On Saturday, shortly after Chris Ashton set a new try-scoring record in the Heineken Cup, England international Sara Bayman captained Manchester Thunder to the netball Super League title.

DEAD rubber or everything on the line? The perils of Tuesday afternoon deadlines means that, as the Observer went to press, Wigan Athletic’s trip to Blackburn at the weekend could still fall into either category – depending on the result of the midweek clash at Birmingham.

Win or lose at St Andrew’s, Wigan’s fate will remain in their own hands as they aim to hit the play-offs with some momentum.

“The lottery of the play-offs” – it’s one of the biggest cliches in the game,

But it isn’t really a lottery. There’s no real element of luck involved – it’s who peaks at the right time, who wants it more.

Momentum is a key word at this time of year and, of all the play-off contenders, Derby appear to have it in abundance.

But man-for-man you’d take the Latics squad over any of their rivals.

Regardless of the midweek result, Latics will want to beat Blackburn to see them enter the play-offs on a high. If they can do that, what price a fifth trip to Wembley in a year for this remarkable club?