The 18th Man Column: '˜RFL bored of seeing us beat Leeds at Magic!'
This past weekend was a refreshing one for Wigan. It was a much-needed break, and a nice distraction from the league and the current woes that come with it.
We fielded one of our stronger squads than in recent weeks, and while the game was nothing special, we got the win, and that’s all that mattered. It was a welcomed win, one in which will give us a bit of a boost going into the Magic Weekend this week.
I felt for Swinton a little, the scoreline didn’t reflect their efforts on the day. They were good in defence, albeit conceding 42-points, and confident in their attack.
They got quite unlucky with some of the Wigan tries, as at least four of them came from very clumsy errors, whether that be an interception, poor discipline or knock-ons. They didn’t help themselves at times.
One of the best things about that game, was that it included 20 Wigan Academy products across the two teams. Not only that, but all 42 of Wigan’s points were scored by them too.
All in all, it was a great afternoon at the rugby. I got to see Wigan win, score a fair few points, and do it all in the glorious sunshine.
Now, as the new week began, thoughts started to move onto the huge game with Warrington at the Magic Weekend in Newcastle.
I’m not sure how I feel about the game. Part of me fancies us to do what we’ve been doing for the past few Magic Weekend games, and get the job done. Yet, another part of me is going down there with some real worry on my mind.
We had some unbelievable news following the Swinton game, when Wane talked about the possible return of Tommy Leuluai weeks before he was originally planned too. Not only that, but we’ll also have Williams and O’Loughlin back in the fold too.
The team can start to take some normal shape again, with Williams and Leuluai in the halves, McIlorum back at hooker, and Lockers back in at loose.
While Warrington are getting the results, they’re not doing it with much conviction, so I think this is a great time for us to be playing them. Not many fancy us to get the job done this week, and it’s the perfect stage for us to prove them all wrong.
Being a Wigan fan we’re used to famous people being Wigan fans, success follows success.
The latest fan to come out of the woodwork and declare their love for the mighty Wigan is one other than former undisputed Cruiserweight and Heavyweight champion of the world Evander Holyfield, the real deal is apparently the real deal.
On Sunday he tweeted that the one team that can pull through the play offs is the Wigan Warriors.
It’s been a long time since a high profile American sportsman has declared their love for the club, the last one being Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts in 1992 when he was seen wearing a Wigan shirt.
Probably something to do with Davey Boy Smith, otherwise known as the British Bulldog.
In all honesty, Evander Holyfield declaring support for the club was nothing more than a fat fingered spelling mistake and was really throwing his support behind the Golden State Warriors basketball team and had mixed up the twitter names but at least he’s been made aware of rugby league and the Wigan club.
Who knows, now that he’s promoting he may venture to the UK more often now and take the club up on their offer to visit the club and watch a game.
If he does come over, I think it would be a good idea to give him a Galloways chunky steak pie on a barm to take back for his mate Mike Tyson, let him nibble on that rather than Holyfields ear.
A sigh of relief as a potential banana skin was avoided.
Wigan’s hard fought but ultimately comfortable looking victory over Swinton sees them move into the Challenge Cup quarter finals and a tasty looking tie away at Warrington.
With Swinton having defeated Huddersfield in the previous round and Wigan yet again shorn of a full team of stars leading up to this game, and Williams pulling out before the game with a migraine, there was no chance of any chickens being counted.
A thoroughly-professional performance saw Wigan home with the added bonus that all eight tries were scored by home grown lads, which will have pleased Wane no end.
With no further injuries picked up we can now look ahead with confidence to Magic Weekend.
Bored of watching us beat Leeds year after year, the RFL have this season pitted us against Warrington late Saturday evening. Rumours suggest this will be the last Magic Weekend in Newcastle for a while with the RFL seemingly hoping to move to prevent staleness, which I can understand, but Newcastle has been by far my favourite venue to date.
An excellent stadium and facilities, good atmosphere around the ground and nearby areas (ok, pubs) and well supported by the locals, it seems a shame to move away to possibly Coventry or London, but if the intention is to spread the word of our wonderful sport then needs must.
Personally I’d like to see a weekend in Dublin, although how many tickets they would sell is up for debate, but that would be a truly magic weekend!
Looking to the game I have every confidence we will win this one. There seems a good possibility Williams, O’Loughlin and Leuluai could all be available to face the Wire, which would be a massive boost.
The team always look a better side with Lockers on the pitch, and if our forwards can get on top of their pack, Tommy and George should have enough in their lockers to create plenty chances for our young speedsters out wide.
While Warrington ended up with a decent looking win over Widnes, like many of their games this season they have flattered to deceive. The decisive try in the game by Kevin Brown, at 20-20, could easily have been wiped off for a forearm to the face of the Widnes defender and had it been who knows what the outcome may have been. I expect Wigan to win this one by a couple of tries.
Swinton Lions have a great reputation in Wigan.
We played them a few years ago in a similar Cup clash and it seems that they played last Sunday with the same good spirit and gave a really good account of themselves. I could not make the game but from the footage I have seen on Wigan TV the Lions are certainly no pushover.
It did seem quite odd though to have two forwards playing in the halves and although Nick Gregson seems made for the role, I have never really seen Joel Tomkins as half back material.
To his credit though, he adapted his game and managed his energy levels well, showing what a well rounded rugby league professional he is.
The result, though, was never a doubt and then came the draw for the quarter finals. The fears of another home tie played at an away ground due to pitch maintenance quickly passed as Warrington were the lucky team to draw the home fixture against us, now this Saturday’s game at Newcastle against the Wolves takes on a whole new meaning. Having beaten them already at their ground this year they already had a score to settle, now it’s a confidence thing too for whoever comes out on top will have a huge boost going into the trap door game next month.
It seems like we may have a couple more players back from injury this week with George Williams, Sean O’Loughlin and the biggest surprise that there is a possibility Thomas Leuluai may return, is this man made of granite? It would certainly give hope that we can begin to see some semblance of normality coming back to the starting line up. Finally, I would like to offer a great thank you to Sam Powell who came along to a fund raiser for the Mayor’s Charity,
The Wigan and Leigh Hospice, last Friday evening.
Sam took time out with his lovely wife and their adorable baby to come along and answer a few questions in a fun interview by Councillor Chris Ready.
This kind of support is so important and many of the players freely give their time which is a wonderful gesture of support for our community.
It was a great night and he helped raise much needed funds for a fabulous cause. Well done young man, you set a great example.
Magic Weekend for me, is Magic.
As a Wigan fan that moved to Durham University in 2007 and hasn’t moved back to the North West due to working commitments, a Wigan game in the North East is very much welcomed!
Travelling back from Swinton on Sunday and knowing that my next journey home from a Wigan game will be 30 mins, rather than two hours 30 minutes, is a selfish but warranted reason to get excited about Saturday for myself.
This is likely to be the last Magic Weekend at Newcastle for a few years at least, as the RFL look to move the fixtures to somewhere new, potentially Coventry.
Newcastle has been a good hunting ground for Wigan in the past two seasons, with two very good wins over the Leeds Rhinos at St James’ Park.
This year, an injury-hit Wigan outfit are up against an improving Warrington side, though they still looked less than convincing in their cup game against Widnes.
My disappointment with the suggested move away from Newcastle, is obviously due to the location but what that means for those who attended the games over the past three years, who may have been newcomers to the sport.
Are the RFL doing enough to keep them interested in the game?
The Newcastle Thunder (formerly Gateshead) now play at Kingston Park, home of the Newcastle Falcons and attract between 700-1,200 fans per game.
But where is the legacy for those fans wanting to watch Super League players?
And when will the next time be when rugby league at a higher level than League One is played in the North East?
As such, what was the point in taking Magic Weekend to Newcastle?
Yes, they have had two decent crowds each weekend but what’s the long term strategy of having the Magic Weekend in a city that is unfamiliar with rugby league.
The argument of moving it to Coventry next year is the rumoured interest of creating a Wasps Rugby League brand, to sit alongside their rugby union counterparts who have recently made the move to Coventry from London.
The argument for Coventry is already there in that case and a long term strategy (as much as long term rugby league strategy exists) is there, but without some development in the North East from the RFL – what was the point in 2015, 2016 and 2017?
It is important that some commitment is made to the North East, perhaps a guaranteed World Cup game in 2021 would be a start.
But three years of good crowds at Newcastle’s Magic Weekend could be a wasted venture unless a commitment is made to the North East from the Rugby Football League.