The 18th Man: Focus is on defence, but attack needs sorting
This week came the news that Romain Navarette and Lewis Tierney were going to Catalans on loan and maybe Liam Forsyth would follow suit.
I think it will be beneficial as we have seen a good run of games can improve a player tenfold as we saw with Forsyth. With having no proper reserves competition and the red tape that comes with dual registration, certain players will end up not playing for the rest of the season. This is an issue that the RFL need to sort out. To be in Super League each club should have to run a reserve team plus an under-21s, U19s and an U16s. And what we should call them is the A team or reserves, alliance, academy and scholarship teams like they used to be. The RFL in their typical fashion will say teams can’t afford to run those teams, I say codswallop. I’d have played for Wigan for free if given the chance and there will be lots of lads willing to do that now. They should have the reserve/alliance game as a curtain raiser to games as they used to. It used to be great watching the next up and coming stars play before a match.
With the news of the players going out on loan, could we be making signing? The deadline is Friday for registering new players and I think we are lacking a big, tall traditional prop, not a former second rower and not an impact prop. I mean someone who is 6ft3 and 18 stone plus - no frills, will just keep hitting that ball up one after the other. Like an Alex Walmesley or a Chris Hill, that type of player.
In the news this week Shaun Wane has said our kick-defence needs to improve, if I’m honest I think our attack needs to improve. Our attack relies far too much on the brilliance of George Williams’ running and short kicking game. I know it is not just Williams winning us games, we just seem to rely too much on him. I want to see us scoring tries after good flowing rugby and it needs to improve sharpish if we are to add silverware to the cabinet this season. Like with after the Widnes game in 2016 when we were embarrassed at home we turned a corner and the players started playing good rugby which won us the Grand Final.
In my opinion, adding a former halfback to the coaching staff to help with our attack would be a wise decision. Someone along the lines of Adrian Lam or Trent Barrett would be a good move I reckon, someone who understands the club and has played at the top level in Super League and the NRL and played halfback with that game management experience and with fresh ideas for our attack. They could also mentor George Williams, having an experienced legendary half giving him tips would help him achieve his full potential.
I have full faith in Shaun Wane and his staff to shore up our defence and make it the impenetrable defence it was not so long back. I just think we need help with our attack from outside of the current coaching set up.
Leaving the DW Stadium last week, I thought to myself how do I find something positive in that? Shaun Wane wants to ‘prove the knockers wrong’ and anyone who has ever read my meanderings over the last decade must know by now that I am not one to knock our squad. But what on earth happened? To be out enthused by any side is unforgivable as we must want to win every game by as many points as possible, but we were reactionary, pedestrian and downright outclassed.
There was an awful lot going on behind the scenes with Wane’s operation and Lockers 400th game, but if a quick play the ball and a handful of players rushing at us with an umbrella defence is all it takes to put us down, we can write off any hopes of extra silverware this year.
Our shape in attack was simply absent for most of the game and this habit of the backs running the ball out from our own 10 metre line is flawed. Other teams get an odd helping hand, we throw our back line into clearance plays to give our middles a rest. So when we make a break, the centres and wingers are either out of place or simply tired. The forwards for Warrington looked energised and one can only assume that some of our lads are carrying knocks as we just don’t seem to last the pace.
How many times this year (and last) have we had ball in good position and all stood still, no movement or running onto a ball? Last tackle kicks are often an afterthought and our tactical kicking game must be the worst in Super League. But all of this is fixable. The stamp of player here is awesome and perhaps they just need some direction on the basics so that everything else will fall into place. But if it were that simple, I would not be sat here typing, I would be coaching myself, so we must remember that some grace has to be given.
On a much brighter note, I am happy to report that Team Radlinski won the Warriors golf day on Friday. Our secret weapon was Henry’s Flap Jacks which were sublime. The highlight would have been rubbing salt in the wounds but Shaun Wane must have done too much on Thursday night, as he was not well enough to attend and we all wish him well. Still I have a great photo of me and Rads with the trophy if Shaun wants a copy. One of the funniest things I have seen though was Paul Sculthorpe covering up the Wigan Crest on his shirt with his hand each time a photo was taken and insisting he was actually from Oldham!
Normally upbeat, I am struggling to find any positives from the Warrington defeat. This was a painful game to sit through, a lack of flowing rugby from either team and numerous handling errors and penalties made for a very boring Thursday evening.
Referees, and their treatment, have been in the limelight recently, and rightly so. For all the frustration as a supporter, more often not caused by our own team’s shortcomings but blamed on referee decisions, the game can’t run without them and the level of abuse they receive needs to be curbed. It’s very hard to rationalise in the heat of the moment when your team is losing and they concede yet another penalty late on, but the truth is referees are very rarely wrong in the penalties they give. Even if they are, they make far fewer errors than our players, and pointing the finger at the man in the middle is just deflecting from our own shortcomings, of which there were quite a few against Warrington.
Our kicking game was very poor, and on the rare occasion we threw the ball around, teams seem to have figured out the way we play. Every time the ball was thrown out the back to Williams on the left or Tomkins and Bateman on the right there were defenders waiting for them. It’s clear we need fresh ideas in attack. Paul Deacon does not seem to have been replaced as a backs coach, and although we are expecting Leuluai and O’Loughlin to join the coaching staff in a year or two, that was never going to help this season. It appears a strange decision not to have appointed someone even in the short term to help out.
On to the Leeds game this week and my confidence is much lower than for the last game. That said there is always the feeling the lads might just “click”. Sadly Liam Farrell will still be missing, he was a huge loss for the Warrington game, his surging runs and combinations with Williams and Gildart usually contributing to numerous breaks per game.
Leeds have a couple of players missing, the luckless Keith Galloway ruled out for the rest of the season again with an achilles injury, but they have a strong team available. That said I’m still surprised to see them riding as high as they are. Player for player I wouldn’t have them in second place in the league, but they have always had a good team ethic and Joel Moon is having a great season for them. Hopefully a Friday night game will see a bigger crowd getting behind the lads and we can lay down a marker for the Super 8s.
Thursday was a drab match and Warrington were the better side of two poor teams. How the mighty have fallen from last year’s Grand Final. A few weeks ago, I suggested that Wigan could and would finish in the top four come the end of the Super 8s and they had a margin of error of four games to play with. Since then, they have dropped points against Huddersfield and Warrington – which, in hindsight isn’t the end of the world. Dropping points isn’t great to start with, but it’s also important who those points are dropped against and that will very much be the case in the remaining eight Super League games of the year.
The biggest thing in Wigan’s favour for their chances of a top four finish is that the Super 8s mean that in theory, there are only four teams a week picking up points excluding any draws. That means that Wigan, starting in 8th can move up the table over the next month but their margin of error is now reduced, so much so that I think that they can only afford to lose two games out of the next eight – even then, that might not be enough. A run of eight wins in a row is not impossible and Leeds themselves are currently on such a run. One other slight advantage, if you can call it that, is that Wigan are likely to avoid trips to Castleford and Leeds in the Super 8s by finishing 8th, playing them at the DW instead. Away trips to Wakefield, St Helens, Huddersfield and Salford aren’t as daunting as trips to Leeds, Cas and Hull – which look like they might be avoided.
I believe that Wigan are one strong attacking performance away from mounting a challenge and assault on the top four – what better game than Leeds at home to rediscover that early season attacking form that we saw at Salford, against Cronulla and Widnes away. Come on Wigan.
Part of me just wants this season to be over!
Wigan and Warrington games are normally ones to look forward to. However, it wasn’t the case - as once again, Wigan fans were punished with some rather dismal rugby league.
I can honestly say it’s one of the worst games I’ve watched us play in this season, and we’ve been involved in some stinkers.
We’ve played worse this season, no doubt - but the fact we did so, with a near full-strength side out, was bitterly disappointing.
Our attack was beyond a joke, and completely non-existent last Thursday.
I heard people saying how good the Warrington defence was, but let’s be honest, I think any amateur Sunday league side could’ve kept us out in that second half.
It just not acceptable for a Wigan Warriors side. We should be getting better and stronger by the week, when in fact we’re just playing the same old rubbish.
It’s been a real tough season, and I’m not actually bothered by our league position, it’s more the quality of rugby we’ve been producing that’s a killer.
We’ve won the World Club Challenge, got a Challenge Cup semi-final to come, and still within a shout to get top four, and reach the play-offs.
So, it’s not all doom and gloom!
Some fans don’t accept just winning trophies, and I get that. But if we can finish the season with two trophies and get close to a play-off place, it’s not been the worst season.
However, having said that, I don’t just pay to watch Wigan win, I want to see us play some great rugby, and score remarkable tries.
I want to be entertained, and I don’t think we’ve had that on a consistent enough basis for a long time now.
Castleford are a good example that shows you can win games and play great attacking rugby, while also having a strong defence.
This week we’ve got Leeds, and I honestly don’t know what to expect, I really don’t.
We didn’t lose any ground on the top four last week, but we didn’t gain any either.
We desperately need the win, not only to keep our play-off chances alive, but to also give us a boost going into next week’s huge semi-final against Salford.