MICHAEL Maguire hopes Wigan’s performance tonight can act as the perfect launchpad to a successful play-off campaign.
Wigan wrap-up the regular 27-round season with a home tie against Crusaders this evening.
The league leaders’ shield could be in their grasp by 10pm, if they emerge triumphant AND Hull FC can overcome Warrington at the KC Stadium.
But with that quest out of Wigan’s hands, it is nailing a performance at the top of Maguire’s agenda before the race to Old Trafford steps up.
The Australian has figured in four Grand Finals during his time as an assistant at Melbourne and in charge of the Warriors, and he knows the importance of going into a play-offs series in good form.
After suffering the heaviest defeat of his near-two-year tenure last Sunday – a 39-12 loss at Warrington – nothing but a convincing display will be good enough.
He said: “It’s all about performance. Who wins at Hull is something we can’t control. But what we can control is who is in front of us and how we play. We need to make sure we progress and improve from last week, and go into the finals on a good win.
“We’ve got a big month ahead of us and it’s about getting the kickstart this week and being ready for what’s ahead.”
Maguire hinted that he may make wholesale changes to his squad after Sunday’s defeat.
But the only change to his 19-man squad was forced by the suspension of Gareth Hock, with Chris Tuson likely to figure in the match-day side after an eight-week lay-off with a knee injury.
Wigan expect a bumper crowd of 17,000-plus for their first home match since winning the Challenge Cup. A figure of 18,000-plus would tip them beyond their all-time Super League record for an average home crowd (16,040 in 2007).
Maguire said: “The crowd tried to lift us at certain times against Warrington. They turned out in force and unfortunately we didn’t perform, so hopefully we can put on a big show for them.”
Tonight’s match marks Crusaders’ last in a turbulent, three-year existence in Super League.
Maguire added: “Our motivation is about us, and playing how we’re capable of. How Crusaders play will be down to us.”
Crusaders head coach Iestyn Harris is expected to join Wigan next season as assistant coach to Shaun Wane, who will step up from No. 2 when Maguire heads to Souths.