The 18th man column: '˜Our attack needs outside help'
Our 18th man columnists ask whether Wigan's top-four hopes have now ended...
I thought our attack was poor again last week (in a 32-16 defeat at Leeds), it was just basics that we didn’t do such as having inside runners to stop the opposition defence from sliding across and cutting off our overlap.
This is the point I made the other week and still stick by it, that our attack needs help from outside the current coaching set up I’m sorry to say.
Bringing someone like Adrian Lam, Brett Finch, Brett Kimmorley or someone along those lines in.
(I mentioned the other week Trent Barrett would have been a good addition but didn’t do my research, he’s head coach at Manly - so I must be on the right track).
We could look to a British coach to come up with a plan for our attack, after all Iestyn Harris and Paul Deacon did well, we seem to have lapsed since then and started playing dull rugby.
Every single time we spread the ball out wide we had no inside options, none whatsoever.
So Leeds, as they will do, just slid across and cut off our overlap. We have the fastest winger in Super League in Joe Burgess but because we aren’t doing the basics in attack, he’s no overlap to exploit.
Gildart does really well in closed spaces and can create space because he’s a good centre, but imagine if both Gildart and Burgess had room to play with in attack.
We’re also scared of giving offloads too, playing a position/possession game and it’s boring to watch.
The players are using up all their energy and enthusiasm in defence leaving not much for our attack. Things need to change as it’s not just me who thinks that we are playing dull rugby, when you look at Castleford they’re a joy to watch as they’re playing good old fashioned attacking rugby.
Us British used to focus more on attack than defence but that has shifted since Michael Maguire came over in 2010. I’d like to see a return to attacking rugby.
Another issue I have is we aren’t using our pack correctly. To get the best out of Frank Paul Nu’uasala he needs to be the impact from the bench, but we have too many impact props and not enough grafters.
We need two grafting props, not just the one which I thought the other week and at any one time we need a grafter on the pitch. Lockers is being used as that grafting prop role but we need more. Someone in the style of Andy Lynch, Alex Walmsley, Andy Coley etc - just a no-nonsense grafter.
Dom Manfredi is due to return to the fold, in my opinion I’d play him at full-back and move Sam to No.7 and rest Tommy. I think Sam, at this point in his career, is better suited to the scrum-half role than the fullback role. He is a leader on the pitch with a fantastic rugby brain and a good long-kicking game, that would allow for the return of Manfredi but not pushing out Burgess, Marshall or Davies.
The first week of the Super 8s is over and already any further progress looks doubtful.
A comprehensive defeat to Leeds, who were by far the better side, and victories for St Helens and Hull makes the prospect of reaching the top-four an almost impossible task, even if Shaun Wane won’t publicly admit it.
Whilst all the teams above us will play each other, so dropped points is going to happen, it would need us to find some consistent form which has yet to occur.
The biggest surprise in defeat to Leeds was the manner of the tries we conceded. Our side is built on a strong defensive ethic, but not for the first time this season we are missing too many one on one tackles, and there’s not a lot Shaun Wane can do about those individual errors.
If we’re going to win another trophy this season then the players need to look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves why these mistakes are creeping into their game.
Another issue we have, and this has been a long-standing problem, is the number of penalties we concede – piggybacking teams downfield towards our tryline. Slowing the play of the ball down has long been a tactic of ours, but if we keep pushing the boundaries as much as we do, is it worth it in the end?
Maybe we need to focus more on getting off the tackle quicker at marker to prevent dummy runners, than ensuring we give the rest of the team two more seconds to get back in line and conceding half a dozen penalties a game.
As we have an almost full team available there doesn’t seem too much we can do personnel wise to improve the team. As much as he can produce a moment of magic in attack, for me Anthony Gelling is too much of an individual. It may be worth moving Joe Burgess back into the centres where he can get his hands on the ball a lot more, and bring either Liam Marshall or the soon to be fit Dom Manfredi onto the wing. Most of Gelling’s work the last few weeks has been running from dummy half out of our own end, and maybe Burgess would offer more structure and pace in attack down the right hand side.
Whatever Shaun Wane decides to do, Huddersfield, and indeed every game from now on, is a must-win.
The team have had a full week to prepare, hopefully come up with some variations in attack, and can start to find some form heading towards the cup final at Wembley, our only real chance of lifting more silverware this year.
I suppose we get back to the usual thoughts after a performance like that.
Shaun Wane saying how unacceptable it is splits the opinions. One camp says he is stating the obvious, whilst the others (me included) appreciate that it shows how much of a fan of the club he really is as he hurts with the rest of us.
We all feel the same in that we know it was a dreadful show, way below what we are capable of. But in perspective, the emotional high of Wigan reaching another Wembley final versus the angry determination of a Leeds side kicked out of the cup and lucky to finish 2017 with any plaudits at all.
That is unless you count the RFL, of course, who think the sun shines out of Danny McGuire’s lugholes, which it may actually do if our defensive efforts one on one are anything to go by, as we made him look almost mystical in the way he put players past us. It was obvious from early on that we were going to struggle with the Yorkshiremen’s determination and we looked fatigued in spirit like the previous week had taken too much out of us.
Such a state of mind is hard to pin down when one would expect the highs of Wembley prospects to lift a side, but that lift comes immediately after a semi-final success and I think we suffer generally from a psychological barrier in these instances when the come-down after the high can hit physically and mentally.
That’s one for the sports psychologists to solve, all I know is that those effects will be long gone by now and we can concentrate on the job in hand. We need to keep concentration (easier said than done) and be very mindful of structure in attack and in our individual shape through our defensive line. Holding our hips and shoulders square to the attacking players will help snuff out much of what is thrown at us, a harsh lesson which Leeds exploited to the max. But it is certainly fixable, rather than a lost cause.
Mathematically possible but perhaps unlikely, a rush of blood in the next few games could see us in the top-four and in with a chance of glory at Old Trafford too, but talking the talk is easy, especially sat at the dining table typing this.
We simply have to want it more than anyone else. We have no right to be involved in the top-four semi finals after the year we have had, whether we will or not is anyone’s guess. Let’s see what happens tomorrow and take it one game at a time.
Last week was an absolute horror show for Wigan Warriors.
On the way down to Headingley, I wasn’t confident. We just never seem to turn up down there, and there’s only the odd result that’s gone our way.
Even after last week’s heroics, I still didn’t feel we were good enough to beat Leeds.
And 10 minutes into the game, you had a sense of where it was going, we just looked way off the pace, and as Leeds got their first try, they stepped up.
How we went into half-time level was beyond me, it was a miracle.
At half-time, I thought maybe we had a slight chance if we stepped it up in the second half.
How wrong I was.
Our second half performance was diabolical. There was a complete lack of effort from our part, and that’s being nice.
I don’t really want to spend much time on last week, as I’ve worked hard to forget the game over this past weekend.
Tomorrow we play Huddersfield, and I don’t really want to bill it up as a big game, as I don’t think it is.
I do think we’ll beat the Giants. They had a good win last week against Wakefield, and will be right up for finishing the season strong.
For me, our top four chances are officially over now, I don’t see us winning all our remaining games, and even if we did, I still don’t think we’d make the top four.
I’m just counting down the days until we go to Wembley now, and I cannot wait for that game.
I’ll still be going to the remaining Super 8s games (bar Saints/Hull as I’m on holiday). However, that would be more out of the love for Wigan Warriors, rather than the weekly expectation of reaching the play-offs.
Listen, I’d love nothing more in this world than to be proved wrong on this, and I won’t be going to each game all downbeat and miserable.
But, I’ve been optimistic for a long time this season, but last week, it was finally shattered at Leeds, and I just can’t get myself to be positive for the league anymore.
I hope I’ve not depressed you all too much with this downer of a contribution, and if I have - just remember, Wembley is only 16 days away!