DON’T know if you’ve heard, but Wigan have lost George Carmont. And Tommy Leuluai.
Brett Finch, Jeff Lima and now Gaz Hock have gone, too, which means they’re going to struggle to win anything this year, apparently.
I was once told it only needs a single defeat for there to be a crisis at Wigan.
Good, then, that this off-season has at least put that theory to bed – we’ve not even had a competitive match and yet some are already raising real doubts about Wigan’s prospects.
Of course, those concerns are rooted in fans’ strong passion for the club. Nothing wrong with that. But to listen to some comments, their chances of winning a trophy this year are being written off before a ball has been played!
Look, there is no denying that all the players who have left were big names and great servants, particularly Leuluai and Carmont.
But all, until Hock’s exit last week, were replaced, if you count the two mid-season recruits (Matty Smith and Iain Thornley) and the two from the off-season (Blake Green and Scott Taylor).
Are they the same quality?
Are they capable of filling those roles?
Is Liam Farrell able to step up and play a more senior role?
Will the pack collectively cover for the loss of Hock’s aggression?
We’ll find out soon enough. But at least give them a chance to answer those questions.
Shaun Wane has surely earned the right to have his judgement trusted.
Because, while they missed out on a trophy, for most of last year – Wane’s first in charge of his home-town club – Wigan were fabulous to watch.
They beat St Helens three times. They murdered Leeds at Headingley with a weakened pack. We were left to marvel at some incredible performances, both individually and collectively.
Now, think back 12 months, to the start of the last Super League season. Think about what was being said.
A lot of people then predicted Wigan would miss Ryan Hoffman, Joel Tomkins and Paul Deacon. A lot of people thought they would miss Michael Maguire.
I don’t remember a single person tipping them to finish top, but they did.
And Wane kept to his word of promoting home-grown players.
There will be more to come through. More given their debuts, more fringe players given chances to cement regular spots, more regulars given chances to become stars like Sam Tomkins and Josh Charnley.
For years, some fans moaned about there being too many Aussies and Kiwis in the team. But when Wigan run out to take on Salford in their opening game on Friday night, there’ll probably be just two from Down Under – Pat Richards and Blake Green – with the bulk of the team coming from the club’s own ranks. That stat should be applauded. And let’s hope it reaps the rewards we all want.