Talking RL: A Wigan-Aussie XIII ‘dream-team’

One of these two ex-Wigan players made Phil's 'Wigan XIII of Aussies'
One of these two ex-Wigan players made Phil's 'Wigan XIII of Aussies'

It was a nice touch by Wigan to honour their former Australian players at a ‘Legends night’ week.

It’s no insult to point out that not all the Aussies who have played at the club were legends – but they’ve certainly had some good ones.

For what it’s worth, here’s my Wigan XIII made up of their past Australian players:

Full-back: Brett Dallas. Yep, I hate it, too, when people name players out of position in fictitious sides.

But BD’s speed, toughness and class – and longevity, serving seven years at Wigan – warranted selection, even if it wasn’t in his usual wing spot. He did actually play a couple of games at full-back towards the end of his career. Gets my No.1 shirt ahead of Matty Bowen and Steve Ella.

Wingers: Pat Richards and John Ferguson: I only remember Chicka playing in one game – the 1985 Challenge Cup final – but it left such an impact on me, I couldn’t leave him out. It can be tricky weighing up a player’s impact against the length of service, though Richards ticks both boxes; a freaky kicker, a fine finisher, a tough competitor and an all-round legend fella.

Centres: Gene Miles and Steve Renouf: In truth, there weren’t too many quality centres to choose from, making these two easy selections. Gene somehow managed to improve Wigan’s all-firing backline in the early-90s, while the Pearl scored 53 tries in 59 appearances... and what about the pass to send Kris Radlinski over in that dramatic game with Bradford?

Half-backs: Trent Barrett and Brett Kenny: Like Ferguson, Kenny left an early, indelible mark – as the Guardian’s Paul Wilson wrote, he was the sort of stand-off you’d be in your dreams. Barrett dominated like no other player I can recall – an incredible, complete playmaker. If Adrian Lam classed as Australian (the PNG-born half wasn’t among the 52 Aussies honoured by Wigan) then he would definitely figure, and honourable mentions to Blake Green, mainly for his Grand Final heroics, and Michael Dobson, specifically for kicking Wigan out of the mire in 2006.

The depth of quality tails off in the pack, but I’ve still managed to pick six players who could pack a punch.

Props: Ian Roberts and Les Davidson: Up front, I’ve gone old-school, with Roberts and Davidson at prop (I only vaguely remember Greg Dowling).

Hooker: Mark Riddell: Piggy’s role in the 2010 Grand Final charge – and his goal-kicking salute – earned him my No.9 role, just shading Robbie McCormack.

Backrow: Ryan Hoffman, Bryan Fletcher and David Furner: Three quality players who gave good service, all had skills as well as toughness.

Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington has taken aim at the number of, erm, ‘urine-poor journalists’ who cover rugby league.

“We’ve got a real problem in the game because we don’t appear to have any journalists... with understanding, and it’s them who are peddling a lot of the rubbish,” he said.

To recap: We still don’t know whether there will be the possibility of promotion and relegation at the end of this season. That isn’t scaremongering, that isn’t speculation.

That’s the truth.

We don’t know whether next season will be 12 teams or 14, and whether it will be the Super-8s format or not.

Someone shoot those damn messengers, rugby league’s got a ‘real problem’ with them.

It’s clearly got nothing to do with the administrators running the game!

By any marker, Wigan’s mini-tour Down Under seems to have gone well.

They have given their players – and many of their fans – a wonderful experience, strengthened their ties with their former players, and given the club’s name, and Super League, a boost. Ian Lenagan says they won’t know how much profit they made (and making money was the major aim of the trip) until after Saturday’s international double-header at ANZ Stadium.

Of course, not everyone has been happy about it, and they’re entitled to their views.

But I struggle with is the argument about players needlessly risking injury by playing South Sydney on Saturday. It’s not that I disagree with them – but the fact players do that every day!

Danny Addy and Andre Savelio suffered season-ending injuries in pre-season games. Should we scrap friendlies?

Salford’s Manu Vatuvei picked up a serious injury in training. Should we scrap that, too?

I imagine all fans old enough to remember the ‘96 season will recall through Cherry and White tinted glasses the day Wigan entered the 
Middlesex Sevens – and won.

Does anyone remember that stars Henry Paul and Scott Quinnell were injured in the process and missed a few subsequent Super League games?

Of course not.

Though I bet a few fans moaned about it at the time!