NEVER before has Shaun Wane opened Wigan’s inner-sanctum to the media before.
Cameras are allowed in dressing rooms, journalists can watch training sessions... but video review meetings are strictly off-limits.
Last week, Wane allowed the Wigan Observer’s Phil Wilkinson exclusive access, on the understanding nothing would be censored but the name of specific plays and swearing. Here is a brief extract of what he discovered ...
“Strip away the flashy plays, If I ask you about the DNA of this club, what is it? Run hard. Be aggressive in contact. We can add on the fancy bits, but the run hard mentality is automatic. That’s us. That’s your DNA as a Wigan player,” Wane barks.
It’s 8.50am, last Tuesday morning.
Players are filing into the video room at Wigan’s training centre at Orrell. This is the first time they have been back together since the previous Friday’s 16-12 defeat by St Helens.
The mood is sombre, the small-talk hushed.
With the blinds down, the room is cinema dark, but if it was light there would be little to see. The spartan set-up features plastic chairs, a desk, and a screen on the front wall.
The high-ceiling and tiled floor amplify the scraping of chair-legs, and the footsteps as three coaches walk through the door – assistant Paul Deacon, head of youth John Winder, and then Shaun Wane.
His attire is beachwear – T-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops – but his intense expression tells you he is serious.
A fourth member of staff, sports science academic Mark Quinn, is sitting at the back corner of the room, hidden behind a laptop screen. He feeds a cable into his computer, and the screen at the front of the room lights up.
The room is twice the size of an average lounge and would easily accommodate the full squad, but this video review is split into three groups – the left edge, the right edge and the middles.
Mobile phones are banned, whispering is non-existent. The faint noise of dance music seeps through from the gym next door, punctuated by the sporadic thud of heavy weights hitting the deck.
The first of 23 segments begins. It’s the camera footage from Sky Sports, but there is no Eddie and Stevo... and the replacement commentary is not sugar-coated for a family audience.
The players grimace as a clip of Willie Manu making 20 yards from a tap penalty is shown.
“We spoke about him being a confidence player,” said Wane. “It’s a tap penalty, we’re set... that’s when we need to be aggressive.”
He slaps his hand to emphasis the point.
“Every play” – slap – “every carry” – slap – “every tackle” – slap.
Again, it is the nitty-gritty which needles him. The “one percenters”, as he describes them:
A Wigan player with his hands on his knees, catching his breath. (“You may as well send them a message, tell them you’re knackered”).
A Saints player offloading the ball in a tackle (“You whack him, he should have been hammered so he can’t offload. Then it’s no try”).
Read the full two-page feature, exclusively in this week’s Wigan Observer - on sale now.