Talking Sport - A roller-coaster Easter

Phil Wilkinson
Phil Wilkinson

IT was a real roller-coaster of a Bank Holiday for Wigan Athletic.

Arguably the performance of the season saw them sink Reading on Good Friday, with visiting boss Nigel Adkins admitting Latics were the best team the Royals had faced all season.

Then three days later, and with a vastly different starting XI, Latics crashed to a convincing defeat against Burnley at Turf Moor.

Yes, the Clarets were up for it knowing victory would cement the second automatic promotion spot.

But Latics will know they under-performed across the board, and didn’t do themselves justice on the day.

Of course, there is more than enough time to put that right, with the games coming thick and fast.

Victory against struggling Blackpool this weekend would book Wigan’s spot in the play-offs with two matches to spare.

And aside from sparing themselves undue worry and pressure, that would afford Uwe Rosler the scope he needs to rest key players for the last two matches of the season.

SEAN O’Loughlin would cringe at the attention and acclaim. I’m sure he would, rightly, point out that the Good Friday triumph at St Helens was a great team effort.

An afternoon when Joe Burgess and John Bateman came of age, Blake Green pulled the strings, Liam Farrell brought the muscle ... but it was O’Loughlin who towered above everyone else.

If he wasn’t scoring a try he was creating them, inspiring, perspiring, driving his team to victory.

Green played at three NRL clubs and didn’t hesitate to call him the best team-mate he’s ever had.

Legend Martin Offiah later took to Twitter to say he is “as important to Wigan as Andy Farrell once was”, while another star of their golden era, Phil Clarke, reckons he is the front-runner for this year’s Man of Steel, a prize which has eluded him until now.

It’s hard to disagree.

I’M glad there is relegation this year.

Not just because it generates excitement, but because this Easter weekend has confirmed there is not enough quality to support a 14-team Super League – on and off the pitch.

London are win-less after 11 matches and their crowd on Thursday, of 1,002 – a record low for a Super League game in England – shamed the rest of the competition who averaged five-figure gates.

Bradford, meanwhile, made headlines by first appealing a points deduction for entering administration – again – and then for tumbling to a Super League record defeat.

THE David Moyes experiment at Manchester United was interesting, showing that if you put a mid-table manager in charge, he’ll turn champions into a mid-table side.

By the same token, rugby league needs to take a good look at those who are succeeding at club level, and put them in charge of the game’s governance, at Super League and international level.

Consider this: next week, Australia play a Test against New Zealand, while Samoa play Fiji for a Four Nations spot later this year.

Yet laughably, none of those fixtures are mentioned on the Rugby League International Federation’s own website!

Rugby league’s fans – and players – deserve so much more.