This year marks three decades since Wigan’s first World Club Challenge victory. PHIL WILKINSON picks out 30 memories and flashpoints from Wigan’s games against Australian clubs over the years...
1 The crowd - a recorded gate of 36,895 packed into Central Park on a dry Wednesday night for the visit of Manly. “The number of people who’ve told me they were there over the years, you’d think it was 150,000,” quipped Shaun Wane, man of the match that day.
2 The scorer - for all the internationals on display, all of Wigan’s points came from the boot of centre David Stephenson.
3 The red-card - Wigan’s fourth and final penalty came after Ronnie Gibbs was sent off for elbowing Joe Lydon high after he attempted a drop-goal. In a cruelly ironic twist, Lydon had revved up Wane before the match by telling him to target Gibbs... neglecting to mention he was a top boxer!
4 The English factor - Dean Bell was injured, and fellow Kiwi Graeme West was on the bench but didn’t get on... ensuring the Wigan win was an all-English affair!
5 The achievement - this was a year before the start of Wigan’s glorious eight-season Challenge Cup run, and made Australian fans take note of the English champions.
6 The Anfield factor - after the success of the Manly encounter four years earlier, officials took this showcase to the home of Liverpool FC. A crowd of 20,152 turned out to see Wigan win 21-4.
7 The golden boot - Frano Botica was official man of the match for kicking six goals, including four penalties in the opening 12 minutes; Penrith were penalised nine times in the opening quarter-of-an-hour by French referee Alain Sablayrolle.
8 The Aussie superstars - Brisbane’s side featured Allan Langer, Glenn Lazarus and future Warriors Steve Renouf and Julian O’Neill. It was great to see them at Central Park; Brisbane won 22-8 in front of 17,764 fans.
9 The all-in brawl - Kelvin Skerrett – yep, we were shocked, too – and Andrew Gee traded blows, sparking an all-in brawl.
10 The forgotten face - Wigan’s full-back that day was none other than Andre Stoop. Remember him?
11 The Sevens champions - also that year, Wigan took part in a rain-lashed World Sevens in Sydney - and won!
12 The surprise - What made their achievement even more remarkable, at the end of the group-stages they were resigned to going home. But another result went their way, all the teams were level with one-win each... and Wigan progressed by virtue of ‘most tries scored’.
13 The speed - Martin Offiah scored a staggering 10 tries - including four in the final against Brisbane, which they won 18-6.
14 The greatest - at least, in many people’s eyes, the 20-14 win at Brisbane, in front of 54,000 fans, is the club’s most incredible win. Not only did Wigan travel to Australia, they were missing captain Dean Bell and two main props, Andy Platt and Kelvin Skerrett. It was Graeme West’s first game as coach.
15 The hope - Denis Betts scored a try in the seventh minute, brilliantly-grounding Shaun Edwards’ high ball - and suddenly, people began to believe. Wigan were 12-4 up at half-time...
16 The ending - At 20-14, and in a frantic finish, Brisbane were all over Wigan. “But we tackled our socks off and hung on,” recalls Gary Connolly.
17 The commentary - “Jason Robinson will be the mayor of Wigan,” gushed the gravel-voiced Ray Warren after the winger’s try. One of several memorable quips he made during his commentary, alongside ex-Wigan coach John Monie.
18 The saviours - every Super League side had been beaten, and most comfortably so in the expanded Super League tournament, until Wigan claimed a 22-18 victory against Canterbury Bulldogs.
19 The fight - Playing Brisbane away, Gorden Tallis landed four blows on Terry O’Connor before the prop retaliated. Both were sinbinned. “My wife hits harder,” O’Connor quipped.
20 The double - Wigan backed up their win against Canterbury by beating them at Central Park by 31-24, thanks in large to two red-cards against the Aussie side. They also lost twice to Canberra and Brisbane.
21 The... who? - Hunter Mariners, who went defunct soon after beating Wigan 22-18 in a dramatic quarter-final at Central Park. The fabulously-named Nick Zisti scored two tries... which the Independent reported were both from forward passes.
22 The end of the wait - the WCC was put on ice until 2000 and, with Wigan not winning a Grand Final between ‘98 and 2010, it meant fans had a long time until they saw Wigan face St George Illawarra.
23 The nearly-men - George Carmont struck twice, including one from inside his half, as Wigan led 15-14 at the break. But Cameron King scored the only try of the second-half and Wigan lost the game.
24 The occasion - Wigan took the WCC to Sydney to face the Roosters, adding a fresh excitement to a fixture which had resided in England for 20 years.
25 The reunion - Wigan had an opposed session against Souths in the build-up, reuniting Wigan with their former coach Michael Maguire. They repeated the joint-session at Orrell a year later.
26 The Budgie - Before that encounter, fans wondered who would fill Pat Richards’ sizeable boots, but Joe Burgess announced himself with an assured display and one try.
27 The brief comeback - three tries in 15 minutes early in the second-half offered Wigan a brief lifeline, but Roosters finished strong to win 34-14.
28 The draw - Burgess raced over with a minute to go to level the World Club Series match, which preceded the WCC, by 12-12. And send the game into extra-time...
29 The charge-down - Wigan were penalised, giving Corey Parker the simple task of hitting the winning goal. But his first attempt was charged down by Anthony Gelling, who ran off before the referee could brandish the yellow card!
30 The one to forget - when Micky McIlorum broke his ankle, there was a sense it was going to be an awful night. Brisbane won 42-12.