KEEPING hold of players never seems to generate the same level of excitement as recruiting new ones.
It’s just the way it is.
But this week’s news Micky McIlorum is staying until at least 2019 should be welcomed by every Wigan fan.
The hooker’s influence on the team is growing each year.
Everyone remembers who was sent off in last year’s Grand Final (“otherwise Wigan would have won by 50”, as some believe),but forget the fact they sorely missed the injured McIlorum that night, too.
He is a huge part of this side, and a future club legend.
Unlike No.9s like current Man of Steel Daryl Clark, highlights reels don’t do justice to the contribution McIlorum makes.
Because what makes him so good isn’t just the influence he has on his team-mates, but the effect he has on the opposition, too. He gets into their face. He gets under their skin. And that’s why, often, even the best players don’t seem to be as good against Wigan when McIlorum is against them. They are intimidated by him.
Take Leeds. We saw how good some of their forwards were against Warrington last Friday. My money is they won’t have the same impact tomorrow, when they’re being rattled and harassed by McIlorum. That’s what makes him so good.
JACK Hughes is a good player, but his departure was inevitable.
With Liam Farrell, John Bateman, Joel Tomkins and Sean O’Loughlin in the mix, he would struggle for game-time at Wigan.
A player reaches an age when he needs a chance of more regular action.
Which is why Iain Thornley has gone to Hull KR (though Ian Lenagan claims it was for money) and why Logan Tomkins will also move on – he is a free agent at the end of the season.
LEEDS chief Gary Hetherington is in favour of the current academy system – even though, ridiculously, fringe players over the age of 19 have nowhere to play from the end of July.
“That’s a minor issue. You’d like to think the game in its wisdom can come up with a solution,” said Hetherington.
I doubt the likes of Lewis Tierney (inset) and Connor Farrell see it as a ‘minor issue’, given they are now frozen out of action until February.
And I don’t share his faith that the game may find a solution to the problem, when it was the game which created the problem in the first place!
THE story of the week was in Australia, where Joel Caine – who had modest success in the NRL – recalled the day he went for a trial with St George Dragons.
With him was his 16-year-old mate from the same country town.
“We get down to Kogarah and I’ve had an absolute shocker and my mate has played the best game he’s ever played,” he said.
“By the time I got to the gates the phone’s ringing saying [the Dragons] want to offer me a two-year contract,” he said.
“I couldn’t say ‘yes’ quick enough because I was just so devastated about how I played.”
He moved to Sydney, but after a spell he was asked why his form had “gone off since they signed me.”
He had no answer. So they showed him a tape of his trial, and asked him pointedly, how can he get back to playing that well.
“It’s a bit hard because the player you’re pointing to isn’t me,” Cained replied. The player was his mate from Taree.
His name was Danny Buderus. And he went on to captain Newcastle Knights, New South Wales more than any over player, and also lead the Kangaroos.
“But all he ever wanted to do was play for the Dragons,” added Caine.
AN interesting report in League Express says chief executive Nigel Wood was paid nearly £240,000 last year – £40,000 more than four years ago.
I wonder what Super League players – tied to a rigid salary cap which has barely gone up in several years – think of that pay-rise...
MY weekend prediction? England rugby union will be poor on Saturday
And according to the following day’s papers, it will all be Sam Burgess’ fault.
SAM Tomkins’ recent newspaper column was insightful, and cast Wigan in a positive light.
If you missed it, he said the NZ Warriors’ culture when he arrived was “polar opposites” to what he was used to at Wigan. There was a lack of professionalism.
“At Wigan, standards didn’t get compromised. It was a shock for me here at first,” he revealed.
And this from a team in the NRL, a competition so often pedestalled by fans on these shores.
They were strong words, qualified by Tomkins saying the current coach was working hard to address the issue.
But it also served as a reminder of the kind of team he has been involved in on the other side of the world.
Something which is worth remembering the next time the Hardaker-or-Tomkins-for-England debate is raised.