Sports fans in Wigan can look forward to an interesting year ahead – here are 10 dates to circle on the calendar!
January 31: Transfer window closes
Interest in the transfer window dealings has been dialled up with each defeat Latics have suffered. Will Warren Joyce strengthen his squad? Will he lose his shining lights? All will be revealed. The transfer window, of course, is open all month but it often reaches a crescendo on the final day, with deals often thrashed out in the final few minutes before 11pm.
February 18: Wigan Athletic v Preston North End
This date has been ringed on a few calendars since the fixture-list came out. It is the first league meeting between the pair at the DW in a decade, and Latics will be out to avoid a ‘double’ defeat, following Preston’s 1-0 win at Deepdale in September.
February 19: Wigan Warriors v Cronulla Sharks
Wigan’s first World Club Challenge since 2014 is also their first home match of 2017, and a bumper crowd is expected for this annual early-season fixture between the two champions. Leeds were the last Super League outfit to win a WCC title in 2012, while three-time winners Wigan haven’t taken the crown in more than 20 years – since their epic win in Brisbane in 1994. Cronulla were surprise winners of the NRL, their first-ever title, but their squad boasts Australia internationals Paul Gallen, James Maloney and Valentine Holmes.
March 9: Warrington Wolves v Wigan Warriors
Sure, the previous week’s game against newly-promoted Leigh has appeal. But in the Super League fixtures, it’s hard to look beyond this one – Wigan’s first visit to the Halliwell Jones since beating the Wolves in last year’s Grand Final. These fixtures rarely disappoint. Expect this to be a highly-charged and highly-entertaining affair.
March 19: Wigan half marathon
After four hugely-successful 10k events, Wigan will introduce a half-marathon in March – and the indications point to another hit for the town. The race route starts and finishes in the town centre and takes in Haigh Hall. There is also a 5k race and a ‘family mile’ on the same day, while the Wigan 10k will be in its usual late-summer slot, on Sunday Setember 3.
April 1: Newcastle United v Wigan Athletic
The trip to leaders Newcastle is looking like being the stand-out away-day experience of 2017. A Premier League outfit in all-but status, the Toon have coped well with being the biggest scalp in the division to date. Latics, though, don’t have a bad record on Tyneside, while the night out is reputed to be up there with the best in the UK.
May 7, Wigan Athletic v Leeds United
The last time Leeds were in town was for Dave Whelan’s infamous handover of the club to grandson David Sharpe (who can forget his “they haven’t won the Cup in 25 years...” jibe?!). This game is also the last of the season, and whether it is a crucial match or not remains to be seen, but with Leeds currently battling for promotion and Latics in a relegation scrap, it could well be a must-win encounter for both sides, for very different reasons.
June 24, New Zealand v British and Irish Lions
The opening Test of the Lions tour, and Wigan’s Owen Farrell is expected to play a big role. His dad Andy, the Warriors legend, is on the tourists’ coaching staff.
August 4, World Athletics Championships
London will host the biennial event and organisers will be hoping to tap into the spirit of the 2012 Olympics – the event takes place at the same venue, which is now home of West Ham United.
With no Jenny Meadows on the international stage, it will be interesting to see if any other Wigan Harriers can take a big step up and compete alongside the world’s track and field superstars. But look out for 400m runner Kirsten McAslan, who competes for Sale but lives and trains in this town. Only illness kept her out of the Rio Games.
October 27, Australia v England
England will open their World Cup campaign against the co-hosts – and it will be a good gauge of their chances of success. November’s Four Nations acted as a sobering reminder of how far England trail behind the Green and Gold, and a planned training camp next month has been scrapped. Expect plenty of Wigan players to be involved, with England and other nations. The final is on December 2.