The 18th Man Column: The key flaws which Wane needs to address

John Bateman takes on the  Wakefield defence during Wigans 32-0 loss at Belle Vue last weekend
John Bateman takes on the Wakefield defence during Wigans 32-0 loss at Belle Vue last weekend

So the Warriors ended the season with a whimper.

There’s not much you can say about the Wakefield game other than the performance and result were simply not acceptable.

Going into the game knowing only a cricket score would suffice against a team that have improved massively this season meant one of two things. That the Warriors could take of the shackles and cut loose and play with freedom.

Or they could go into their shell and do all the wrong things that have been the only constant in such an inconsistent season.

You have to take your hat off to Trinity who performed admirably even though they also knew their fate was sealed.

I guess the worrying thing for Wigan fans is their seems to be little room for manoeuvre in terms of playing staff with most of the squad signed up for next season.

I would expect the likes of Tierney and Navarette to be off the books next season but in terms of the first team squad, there’s little chance of an overhaul.

The age old questions of an attacking coach to assist Wane and a kicker that gives you confidence that four points will become six seem as far away as ever from being answered. It’s no secret that the teams that win things often have an excellent goalkicker. But the problem, that Mr Lenagan rightly points out each shareholders meeting, is you can’t simply bring someone in as a kicker, they need to improve the position that they are coming in at otherwise you have an issue with an irreplaceable player not being very good (think Jamie Foster).

The dissection of the season and the finger pointing has begun in earnest. I personally don’t think Wane should go.

His achievements far outweigh the negatives and no club has a divine right to win. But Wane needs to address the glaringly obvious flaws, in himself and his team, leaders on the pitch in O Loughlin’s absence (although I do believe Bateman will take the mantle perfectly when he can move out of SOL’s shadow) a serious last tackle option, a goalkicker up at the 80 per cent mark, and forwards who can dominate. Granted Escare and Flower will bring Wigan some much needed improvements but only the likes of Bateman, Sam Tomkins, Tom Davies can truly hold their heads up high. Injuries have blighted the season but our worst performances where when we had the strongest squad.

Regardless, I’ll be there next season and although I understand people frustrated with the performances, to support any club you have to take the rough with the smooth. See you next year.

David Bailey

Not many times I can say that I am glad to see the back of a season, but this has been such a roller coaster of emotions that I need a rest.

We could not have started higher really, crowned World Club Champions and a brilliant prospect of one down, three to go – how wrong could we have been.

We managed to get to Wembley but to be honest, if we had won that game the way we played it would have been a travesty for Hull. But then in between we have had some glimmers of what we can do, some unbelievable performances showing determination and skill, but then in between those highs have been some terrible lows too: 54 points conceded to Castleford, 50 to Leigh and for goodness sake what was that about last weekend with a 32 nil drubbing at Wakefield?

Consistency is what we have wanted for several seasons now and yet we still have a long way to go. I know Shaun Wane won’t dwell on the injury lists, but the last two seasons have left us stretched to the limit at times and not having the time to rotate players in between big games is always going to leave them running out of steam at some point.

Week after week I have watched our lads flog themselves silly and put their bodies in harm’s way for our club honours, so one can simply not fault them on that score, but our organisation on the field, in the middle of the battle can look like a student review.

We miss not having a dedicated and visionary attacking coach like we used to have in Paul Deacon. It’s not enough to stand flat and play the same ones and twos hit ups, we need some serious structural shake up to make opponents fear our attack rather than simply deal with it.

I suppose change is inevitable and if Sean O’Loughlin does indeed leave to join Toronto, we will need to draft in someone special to fill his boots as I can’t see anyone on the team sheet yet who can.

A big concern for me however is the inconsistent home/away fixture list. It does need to be addressed and the argument that Wigan Athletic have first bite at the bookings is wearing very thin with many.

Other clubs play league, union and football on their pitches and they look brilliant, why does our grass need a rest and recuperation period in summer? Is it special grass? Wigan Rugby is the biggest name in the world of rugby league football, we play summer rugby and yet for most of the summer we play away from home to look after a lower league football team. Can’t the stadium management team see just how ridiculous they look, such fabulous facilities administered with such bias?

Fans lose interest, they get out of the habit of going to a game every other week, time and again I am told this and lifelong fans struggle to gain enthusiasm when they have found something better to do on a Friday evening all summer. Add to that the ridiculous Thursday night games and one wonders if the RFL are trying to ruin the sport on purpose. Let’s celebrate the highest rated team and get the crowds back on side with regular fixtures.

I suppose in closing for the year, I would congratulate Sean O’Loughlin for his dream team selection, Oliver Gildart for his nomination as young player of the year and the team in general for the blood and sweat they have shed in our name, but I am sure they all feel the same.

Such potential needs fulfilling at some point and with a good rest, a lift in attitude and some luck on the injury front, we can perhaps start to build towards our next challenges in 2018.

Darren Wrudd

Positives?

Unearthing gems and the future of the club. Not since 2008 and maybe 2003 before that have we had a glut of quality players coming through the youth system. Oliver Gildart has pushed on from last season, he’s a really talented centre and one who is great at attacking but so underrated in defence.

Liam Marshall, Tom Davies and Liam Forsyth have all made their mark this season. I’m looking forward to seeing more of them next year as well as the aggressive forwards in McCauley Davies and Kyle Shelford, the quality pivots in Jake Shorrocks and Josh Woods and Josh Ganson. There are too many to mention, I feel as though I’m not doing them justice by not mentioning them by name. I feel sorry for Shaun Wane as he has a boat load of quality young players knocking on the door, how does he fit them all in without injuries?

The Challenge Cup Final was a grand day out and could have gone our way.

If so, people may have looked back on this season differently like they did with last season. It gives some of our younger players big game experience and sometimes you’ve got to lose a final to win one.

Now for the negatives:

Poor rugby on show, I know we suffered with injuries to key players through the season but when those key players returned, we didn’t improve our performances. It’s something I’ve long called for in that I don’t want to see heads roll, only an idiot would do that, I just want an addition to the coaching staff to focus on our attack. Once Michael Maguire left and Waney took over, I thought we were more exciting to watch but our attack went stale once Iestyn Harris and Paul Deacon left.

We do need someone to come in with their experience to organise this.

Injuries really took their toll this year but like with most injury crises, it unearths players that may have not got the chance. Sam’s injury gave Escare the chance to show what he can do, also Marshall and Davies came in due to injury. I’m looking forward to next year as Manfredi, Escare, Flower and Burgess will be fully fit and Sam will have had a year under his belt to fully recover and gain confidence and game time.

A full pre-season should bring out the best in Sam next season.

Ideally, Wigan will bring in an ex-international halfback with a bag full of experience from their playing days and with bags full of enthusiasm as a way of proving the self as a coach, by focusing on our attack.

I also believe we need a no nonsense grafting prop, we have four impact props and we haven’t replaced Scott Taylor. Jack Wells could potentially fill that role but he’d be a few years away from it so we need someone now. Chris Hill would be perfect but would come at a premium. As of yet, I’ve not seen anything announced with regards new signings. I don’t know whether Tommy Leuluai is going around for another season, if he isn’t then a scrum half is a must.

It’s not essential but I think a utility player, someone who can do a decent job at centre would be a good call. In fact Dan Sarginson would be perfect as he can fill in at fullback and stand off.

As a club we have strength in our academy but I feel if we lose Gildart or Gelling, we are using make shift players who don’t do a great job at centre.

They can hold their own but if either centre is injured for a long spell, we would be snookered. We have Forsyth who came on leaps and bounds with every game he played, is like to see him loaned out to a high end Championship club if we do bring someone in as he needs game time at centre to develop even further.

Next season we really need a leader to step up, this is a must, it’s been proven we can’t win without Lockers.

It’s not going to be easy to find someone to replace him but somebody is going to have to step up to the plate.

Lockers has been rumoured to be on the radar of Toronto, I wouldn’t begrudge him the opportunity if he wanted it but whatever happens, I don’t want him to leave the club like Faz did.

During the off season without a proper send off, so I really want him to sign on with us for another year.

Lockers will be someone we all tell our grandchildren about in 40 years’ time, just let that sink in.

I don’t want him leaving through the back door, he deserves better whatever his decision is on his career.

Robert Kenyon

I’m just going to sweep over last week’s result. I know that’s not healthy, but it’s needed.

Let’s be honest, we didn’t deserve to reach the play-offs.

I’m not going to start blaming injuries, referees or anyone else.

There’s only one thing to blame for us not reaching the play-offs, and that’s ourselves.

What stands out to me more than anything is the losses to Leigh, Wakefield (being 20-0 up at home) and the two draws with Huddersfield.

We’ve just not been consistent enough throughout the year. Albeit, there’s only been Castleford who have been rather consistent this year.

I guess it shows how poor of a season it’s been – quality wise – when Wigan came just two wins off reaching the top-four.

It’s been talked about all year, and some part of 2016 too, that our biggest problem has been our attacking prowess – and the lack of it.

I’ll be honest, I’m not one of these fans who needs to see attacking rugby to feel like I got my money’s worth. For me, wins are more important, no matter how the game goes.

However, just because I feel that way, doesn’t mean I don’t want to see us change it up a bit, because I really do.

I’ve been saying for a while, along with every other Wigan fan, that we desperately need an attacking coach or two.

I believe our defence, especially our goal-line defence, is top quality and Wane has got that down to where it should be.

You add an attacking coach to the side, and we’ll quickly start to see the difference.

Once our attack is back to its best, there’ll be no one around to stop us.

With the squad we had at the start of the year, we looked unbeatable.

I thought the youngsters that came in a did an unbelievable job, but there’s only so much a miss-matched side can do for so long – it caught up with us.

I don’t believe it’s been a disaster year, by any means – despite our lowest league finish since 2009.

We’re still World Champions, made the Challenge Cup Final and came just short of reaching the play-offs.

It may just be a blessing in disguise that our season has ended early. It’ll give our whole group chance to go away and fix the problems to make 2018 a much better year.

Ben Reid