Talking RL: The Warriors have paid the price for lack of consistency

Fans saw the worst of Wigan at the DW Stadium last Sunday
Fans saw the worst of Wigan at the DW Stadium last Sunday

It could be worse. If rugby league was like football, all three of these crucial games would be taking place at the same time.

Imagine that? Splitting your focus between what is happening with Wigan at Wakefield, and the games at Salford and Castleford.

As it stands, Wigan will know by 10pm tomorrow night – maybe even sooner – if they’ve got a chance of reaching the top-four or not.

Shaun Wane has said all along they will get what they deserve.

I’ll go with that. If they miss out on finishing in the top-four – after 30 games – they’ve only themselves to blame.

They had a golden chance on Sunday to put one foot in the semi-finals, and they blew it. But they’ve also let other games slip from their grasp.

And that’s been the most frustrating part of the season for me – Wigan’s failure to put any rhythm together.

Just as it appears they’ve turned a corner, just as hopes are raised with some impressive wins, they relapse. Like they did against Cas’.

It was an embarrassing and miserable way to finish their home campaign; if the Cas’ loss was a low point, then fans have literally seen the best and worst of Wigan at the DW this year – the victory against Cronulla at the start and what was served up on Sunday (personally, I’m not convinced the Cas’ loss was worse than some other games; just the opponents were much better). Supporting a club is an emotional business, which is why I think even those calling for a ‘mass clear-out’ may change their mind when the dust has settled.

These players were good enough to win the World Club Challenge, and reach Wembley.

And I heard few jeers and many cheers when many were given contract extensions. They’re good enough; they’ve just not done it consistently enough.

Even accounting for injuries and dips and peaks and the quality of the opposition, they’ve had far too many off-days.

And that, more than personnel or style or goal-kicking or anything else, has been my biggest frustration from watching Wigan this year.

I’ve heard some conspiracy theories in my time.

But this week, I spoke to one fan who was convinced – convinced – Castleford will deliberately lose to Hull FC, just to eliminate Wigan from the play-offs.

As if! I bet he thinks Daryl Powell’s last instructions before his players left the dressing room are: “Go out there... and get beat.”

Cas’ are at home, and if momentum counts for anything, they’ll want to keep their winning run going ahead of their semi-final six days later.

Especially against a team who beat them twice this year.

Sure, Powell has rested some key players, which may weaken them – and that’s his prerogative.

But while I don’t give Salford much chance against Saints tonight, I’m still not ruling out Cas’ doing Wigan a favour tomorrow night.

Go on Cas’!

Wigan’s decision to play two matches in Sydney next year polarised opinion.

‘Why are they doing that?’ was the obvious question. There were a few answers, but high among them was, in very simple terms, to make money through attracting new sponsors and partners.

If that explanation didn’t hit the mark at the time, then the revelation about the accounts for last year – showing a £600,000 loss – gave it some context.

I want to tell you a short story about a friend and colleague of mine, Steve Mascord.

Four years ago, I arranged to go with him to a concert in Manchester – an American rock band called Skid Row.

I messaged him two days before to make plans.

This being Steve – an Australian journalist whose passions for travel and rock music are only matched by his slavish devotion for rugby league – he was in South Africa. Probably watching Swaziland play an international, or something like that.

Anyway, he told me he would get into Manchester Airport the evening of the gig. So I went along to pick him up at the terminal and time he told me... and there were no flights from anywhere in South Africa.

Or likely connecting locations. So I took a seat and waited and then, eventually, he walked through the arrivals gate. The last of the passengers from a flight from Tokyo.

Turns out, in the day between messaging me from South Africa and arriving in Manchester, he decided to go and see a Kiss concert in Japan.

When he got there, he caught a train to the wrong city (anyone who knows him will, I guarantee, not be shocked about this).

And when he eventually got to the right place, he discovered the gig was sold out. Oh, and touting is illegal in Japan.

Yet somehow, he not only ended up going to the show, he got to pose for a picture with the make-up-wearing-rockers afterwards!

This is a story that has not made the pages of his new book, Touchstones; so you can imagine how good his adventures are as he embarked on watching a game, and a gig, every week for a year – finishing with the World Club Challenge at the DW earlier this year.

His insights and views on rugby league, and the changing face of sport and media globally, make it a great read for any fan. Even if Kiss aren’t your cup of tea!

Mentioning the changing media, earlier this week the Sky Sports site took some Sam Tomkins quotes from a story I published last week – in the build-up to the Cas’ game – and made it appear as if the remarks came after the 38-20 defeat.

It was lazy at best. Mischievous at worst.

Sky quickly took the story down; which I took as a silent admission on their part they’d been a bit naughty.

But it got me thinking about how this job has changed.

In the modern era, scores of websites comb other sites for quotes, and steal them as their own (often, like the example above, without attributing the original source); it’s much cheaper and easier to do that than send journalists to get their own interviews and stories.

The day later, I ran a story about Joe Burgess being fit to play in the World Cup.

It was good news, as it had 
appeared his hamstring injury from Sunday would rule him out of England’s plans.

Not long ago, it was a journalist’s aim to get a quote to stand a story up. Ideally in the first four paragraphs.

But now, it’s in a journalist’s interests to run the story without a quote, to make it harder for it to be ‘lifted’ by a rival.

It’s the same if I have a story about a signing-target. Put in a quote – even a denial – and it gives others a chance to take it as their own.