Talking RL: ‘It’s not all about “winning for those who are leaving”’

Shaun Wane and John Bateman at the Man of Steel dinner
Shaun Wane and John Bateman at the Man of Steel dinner

Shaun Wane and Sam Tomkins and John Bateman and Ryan Sutton. They couldn’t have scripted it better.

On Saturday night, they get the chance to go out the way they wanted – with victory in Grand Final.

But the script, they realise, is down to sweat, not fate.

When Wigan won the title in 2010, Keiron Cunningham was on the losing side in his final game.

Plenty of other players have faced disappointment in their last outings.

I’m sure I read in the build-up to the NRL Grand Final stories about ‘wanting to win for Billy Slater’, but Melbourne still lost.

So wanting to win it for Wane and the rest is all well and good, but want only gets Wigan so far.

Thankfully, they also have a strong line-up with key players, and experienced players, present and accounted for.

They have whatever unmeasurable momemtum that a nine-game winning streak gives you.

And the confidence from knowing their defence has been incredibly impressive, leaking less than two tries a match during that run.

They need to go out on Saturday and deliver a performance they know, and we know, they are capable of – against a Warrington side which showed its mettle against St Helens.

I wish them all the best.

There are adverts promoting Saturday’s Grand Final in Manchester’s train stations.

Just a shame that Wigan fans can’t get there by train, given the strikes at Northern - ironically, one of the sponsors of Super League.

Thankfully, that disruption is not putting off the supporters, who are expected to pack Old Trafford.

Every year players vote for the Steve Prescott Man of Steel and then, after the result is known, the RFL publishes how they voted.

Which, in theory, is great (and they picked the right three-man shortlist this year).

Trouble is, some players think it’s funny to vote for their mates.

Danny Addy got two votes without playing a single minute this season.

Others did play, but were clearly, obviously, not the best players this year.

Catalans had the most offenders, and I hope by next year Steve McNamara reminds them of both Prescott’s legacy and the trophy’s history.

Shaun Wane was on BBC Five Live last night.

Directly after Shane Warne. The announcer had my sympathies...

I’m pleased for Wigan Athletic that their protracted takeover is nearly over.

And I’m glad their statement to their shareholders made it clear they see the Warriors as a “valuable tenant”.

It should hopefully end the nonsense talk about the ground-sharing coming to an end once the IEC take control of Latics.

Congratulations to Oliver Gildart on his England call-up.

I’ve long admired his flashy attacks but put him in a big game - I’m thinking Cronulla last year, Castleford last week - and it’s his defence which often impresses.

He replaces Sam Burgess, which may nudge John Bateman from centre to his preferred spot in the forwards.

Wayne Bennett will also pick another player to come in for the injured Luke Gale, and with Jake Connor, Jonny Lomax, George Williams, Sam Tomkins and Stefan Ratchford in the squad, the extra man doesn’t need to be a halfback.

Finally, I’d just like to salute the three senior players who are leaving Wigan this season.

Sam Tomkins, John Bateman and Ryan Sutton have all made huge contributions over the years.

When Batty first arrived, you needed subtitles to understand him! Thankfully, his Yorkshire accent softened during the years on this side of the Pennines.

He has been a pleasure to deal with and, more than that, a pleasure to watch play.

I saw a fan describe him as being like a hobnob in a biscuit-dunking competition! I’ll go along with that.

There is a saying that props get better with age. The fact Ryan Sutton only recently turned 23 and has played more than 100 games for Wigan - at the coal-face of the game - is a real testament to him.

He plays the game hard and tough, direct and down the middle... although anyone who thinks he hasn’t got a sidestep in him clearly didn’t see him dodge questions about Canberra earlier this year!

Sam Tomkins.

From a five-try debut to having his face plastered over Heinz soup tins to interviewing Russell Crowe on the red-carpet, we have seen him burst on the scene, move to the NRL and return.

Anything he has lost in speed on his return he has made up for with intelligence, finishing skills... and that Scrappy Doo-tenacity which endears him to Wigan fans as much as irritates visiting supporters.

Off the field, he is generous with his time, polite and always great to interview.

Tomorrow: My tribute to Shaun Wane