Talking RL: Did Shaun Wane spill a drink down Lady Luck's dress?

Honestly, I think a team comprised of Wigan's missing players could beat most in Super League.

Thursday, 4th May 2017, 11:43 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 7:02 pm
Morgan Escare is the latest player to be sidelined

Not in their current health, you understand, but hypothetically.

Imagine, for a second, a team with Sam Tomkins at full-back. Morgan Escare is pushed to the wing, with Dom Manfredi on the opposite flank with Anthony Gelling and Oliver Gildart in the centres.

With Thomas Leuluai and George Williams at halfback. If squad numbers count for anything – and they are usually a solid guide to a pecking order at the start of the year – there are six of the ‘starting’ seven.

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Up front, Tony Clubb and Ben Flower - arguably their best two props – sandwich Micky McIlorum in the front-row. England internationals John Bateman and Sean O’Loughlin are in the back-row, alongside Connor Farrell.

Only one of those players (Farrell) is not a ‘starter’. And, of course, a player who would be ‘next in line’ – halfback-hooker Jake Shorrocks – is also out injured.

I can’t help wonder if Shaun Wane accidentally spilled a drink down Lady Luck’s dress once. And she’s still mad at him.

But what I like has been his response to it – every time he has been asked about injuries, he has stressed he is not making any excuses.

He talks about being excited and positive. He talks about players having golden chances to impress.

‘If you pull on a Wigan shirt, you’re expected to do a job. You’re at the club for a reason.’

Wigan do well at Easter, and I wonder how much of that is down to Wane’s positive attitude. Seems to me that those coaches who moan about the schedule are giving their players a pre-emptive excuse to feel sorry for themselves.

Hopefully, that mindset will serve them well against Salford tomorrow.

Despite missing so many players, he’s able to name a largely recognised side.

For me, the issue won’t be the personnel, but the combinations – because Wigan will have a new ‘spine’ in the side.

It would be understandable, almost expected, if they are clunky.

Which is why I’d be satisfied if they could snag a win, any win, against a Salford side also missing several players.

Win or lose, the experiences will certainly serve them in good stead in the future. I wouldn’t wish injuries on any player, and I long for the day Wigan are close to full-strength.

But in a weird way, I’m looking forward to seeing how Wigan cope.

Doesn’t take much for their to be a crisis at Wigan. At least, it didn’t use to.

Not too long ago, a 54-4 mauling at Castleford would have set alarm-bells ringing in some quarters.

Now? It doesn’t seem to be the case.

I’ve not heard or read anyone drawing any long-lasting conclusions from the landslide loss. Not seen anyone saying, ‘Wigan will never win a trophy’.

Sure, call the performance for what it was. Embarrassing, soft, humiliating. But people seem to be keeping perspective; it was just one game.

Maybe we’ve learned from the blow-out scorelines over the last few years... and from the fact that, no matter what has happened, Wigan still reach finals.

I remember Wigan butchering Leeds by 50-8 in Shaun Wane’s first year in charge - at Headingley. Remember it? Rio Ferdinand was singing along to the winning song in the dressing room afterwards.

But I imagine the Leeds fans have better memories from that year - they went on to win the Grand Final.

Wigan were butchered 58-16 at Catalans two years ago, but only one of those sides finished the season at Old Trafford, and they didn’t speak French.

Last year, I remember Salford battering St Helens 44-10 early last year and thinking, ‘Salford may surprise a few’.

The only surprise after that was their Million Pound Game miracle.

And, of course, we saw a patched-up Wigan side suffering the ignominy of losing 62-0 at Wakefield. You read that right; 62-0. At Wakefield.

Wigan have won two trophies since then.

Last weekend, Super League passed the halfway point of the regular season before the competition splits for the Super-8s.

Of the bottom four, it’s hard to see Leigh, Huddersfield and Widnes making up the lost-ground.

I only see Warrington climbing into the top-eight over the remaining 11 matches.

The question is, who will they replace?

Instinctively, I’m tempted to nominate Wakefield – but Chris Chester’s side are above Catalans and St Helens in the table.

It’ll be a nervous, and interesting, run-in for those sides.

At the top, it’s still too tight to predict a top-four.

Castleford have been the pace-setters - their lowest points tally at home has been 42, and they were terrific against Wigan last weekend.

Will they maintain it? We’ll have to see, but certainly they’ve freshened up the battle at the top-end.

The same goes for Salford.

In the past, they have been one of the most enjoyable teams to watch.

Not the best by a stretch, but one of the best to watch.

And this year, they’ve added a workmanlike quality. I still have the same questions about the depth of their squad – Salford don’t even have an academy – but for now, they’ve helped make this competition more enjoyable, and more unpredictable.