Our 18th man columnists discuss Tomkins-Catalans link, Hamlin’s debut and McIlorum facing his former club...
How would you feel if Sam Tomkins left to join Catalans?
Jon Lyon: I’d be very disappointed if we lost Sam just as he’s getting back towards his most influential. So much is up in the air with regards to recruitment for next season. Rumours about Sutton, Gildart and Bateman to Australia, are we or aren’t we signing Hardaker and when can he play? There’s a lot to fall into place for Sam to make the move but we would certainly be losing one of our most experienced players, and first choice goalkicker, if he went. From Sam’s point of view, unless he’s being paid a fortune to move I can’t understand why he would want to join Catalans, they are by no means certain to even stay in Super League, and if it’s Steve McNamara who is trying to tempt Sam, I would be amazed if McNamara is still in the head coach’s position at Catalans by the end of this season. Stay at Wigan for the trophies, Sam!
David Bailey: If you’d have asked me six months ago I’d have been shocked to see Sam’s name linked with a move away from Wigan, and to be honest I will still be a little surprised if he goes, with his young family to consider. The Warriors would miss him on the field I am sure, as his game has developed. This season in particular we are seeing a more measured approach and he has a great rugby brain similar to Edwards/Gregory and Farrell. That being said though, Wigan (Lenagan and Radlinski in particular) always seem to be a few steps ahead and if Tomkins does go, Escare will undoubtedly be the full back of choice unless this is to make way for a particular
Yorkshireman currently out of the game.
Ben Reid: I’m not too sure. It would be a big loss, but again, it wouldn’t leave us too short in the full-back position with Morgan Escare there to take on that No.1 shirt for the foreseeable future. I think we’d be fine with his departure, and the possible addition of Hardaker could be in our minds too. However, on the flip side, if you look at our squad, and in particular, the starting 13, there’s only Sam and Lockers who have that captain’s head and can organise and command the lads on the pitch. So, with Lockers coming to the end of his time in the game, and if Sam was to leave, we’d have no real leader as it stands.
Darren Wrudd: I think a lot of Wigan fans – me included – would feel that it is perhaps a step too far if their club went on to let Sam Tomkins go and wander off to the south of France. Let’s not forget that Sam was given a free pass to try his hand Down Under, welcomed back like the prodigal son whilst we carried and cared for his injury and lack of fitness last year whilst paying him top dollar. He has started red hot this year and I am not surprised that Steve McNamara wants to steal another top class player rather than rely on the lack of player development in their own setup. I do not rate McNamara at all and think that he will be seen to be an old fashioned coach, with old fashioned ideas and just try to buy his way out of trouble. His player roster is not bad and he should be able to coach his way out of a hole. I don’t think the Wigan fans will put up with slowly stripping our club of talent whilst others benefit from our commitment to the game unless we are seen to be at the top of the tree again where we belong.
I tire of seeing players cut and run after all the club does for them and then come back when it does not work out. I hope that Sam has his mind made up to stay here as he is a class act, then we can put to bed these disruptive rumours before they start to do some damage to ticket sales.
Sean Lawless: I will feel that the Marquee Rule has probably back fired if Tomkins leaves, which I expect he will. It means that a marquee star must perform and simply adds pressure to their own game and with Tomkins, his injuries have done that. By moving away for a second time, Sam Tomkins will perhaps burn some bridges with Wigan fans and the Hall of Fame status he was set to achieve will probably now never happen.
Robert Kenyon: I don’t want him to go as he is a good player and a leader in the team, he’s a great organiser but is he worth his wage? No. If I’m honest I’d try and use the marquee quota and his wage on bringing someone else in, like Cooper Cronk for a couple of seasons and help bring the likes of Powell, Williams, Shorrocks and Woods on.
Unfortunately Sam hasn’t hit the form that he was in on his first stint here, that’s for sure, but what I don’t get is why he is still playing fullback. In my opinion, he’d make a far better scrum-half now as he has lost that yard of pace that set him apart. But, with the likes of Morgan Escare in form at fullback and Sam Powell doing really well at No.7, not to mention the back up in Josh Woods and Jake Shorrocks in reserve, plus others, can we live without him, yes.
But I do feel that if he was moved to No.7 and took a drop in pay then I’d love for him to stay, if he wants to experience life in the south of France and earn a good few quid before he retires then good luck to him. He will always have a special place in the hearts of Wigan fans.
A few fringe players impressed on Monday - if it was up to you, who would you keep in the side to face Catalans?
Jon Lyon: Shaun Wane certainly has some tough choices to make as I thought everyone who came into the team against Hull KR played well. I think Burgess is still first choice winger but how can you leave out Liam Marshall after scoring four tries? Wane might have to flip a coin between those two. Josh Woods looked composed with a good kicking game but I think I would wait to play him back at Wigan again rather than in an away match. Sarginson was solid defensively but with most of our attack going down the left he didn’t get much chance to shine with ball in hand. The best showing was from Gabe Hamlin, who was an explosive nugget of energy and enthusiasm, and looks likely to be a real fan favourite. I would leave him in the team and give Ben Flower a well earned rest.
David Bailey: I think despite Wane trying to dampen the enthusiasm around him, Hamlin surely deserves another shot. I think it would also do him good travelling to Catalans as part of the team. Liam Marshall should also have done enough to retain his place on the wing, maybe Burgess in the centre to give Bateman a place in the back row is worth an experiment too.
Ben Reid: Gabe Hamlin, what a player. Honestly, I’ve not enjoyed watching a player run a ball in like he does for a long time. We’ve got some superb forwards who make us great yards. But Hamlin just looks like he has that something special. I’m a guy who prefers forwards to backs, and he is a player I’ve taken to straight away. I thought Navarette did well, and Woods was better than he was against Saints. But Hamlin stood out, and I think the response from the Wigan crowd said it all. If he’s not in the squad for the game with Catalans this week, I’d be gutted. He fully deserves it after Monday’s performance.
Darren Wrudd: Monday’s game was a breath of fresh air for several reasons. Romain Navarrete has come a long way since joining us and showed up well whilst young Josh Woods stepped in and did a great job with his kicking game. I think everyone was thrilled with the debut of Gabriel Hamlin. He was simply awesome and the crowd’s response was brilliant. I would keep Hamlin and Navarrete, whilst resting Woods’ young body and with a little luck have Powell and Escare back.
Sean Lawless: The popular answer has to be Gabe Hamlin but I thought Josh Ganson did wonderfully well on Monday and adds weight to calls for him to replace Thomas Leuluai as the permanent number 9 in 2019 onwards. He is a natural hooker but on Monday he showed excellent decision making with his decision to go down the blind side resulting in a couple of tries for Wigan.
Robert Kenyon: Hamlin and Liam Marshall would have to stay in the team for me. Navarrette, Ganson and Dan Sarginson just miss out. Josh Woods, though a bright future, I’d have to drop him. To miss out would be Joe Burgess and Taulima Tautai. The classy display against Hull KR will force Waney’s hand into swapping a few around.
Finally, what reaction do you think Micky McIlorum will get from the Wigan fans on Saturday?
Jon Lyon: If McIlorum gets anything other than a standing ovation when he comes out to warm up I would be very disappointed. There can be only a few players who have put their bodies on the line more for our club and Micky deserves our respect and gratitude for all he has done for Wigan. If he feels he was hard done to when he left Wigan it could be a very sore afternoon for some of our lads.
David Bailey: Born in Leeds, made in Wigan. What more can you say about him. He should get a huge ovation before the game as he left nothing on the pitch whilst wearing the cherry and white shirt. He left on good terms and will always be a fan favourite. That being said it will be interesting to see what kind of game he has. He always upped his game against Leeds like he had a point to prove, and I am sure this weekend will be no different and he’s likely to want to keep Tommy and Sam Powell quiet when up against them. The fans’ tune may change if he puts in some big hits and also is a niggly against Wigan as he was for us.
Ben Reid: Hopefully a good one. He was an outstanding player while at Wigan, and thoroughly deserves the respect and appreciation when he comes up against us for the first time this Saturday. I’m sure there’ll be some pantomime boos, but overall it’ll be a good reception that he gets.
I imagine it’ll be rather strange for McIlorum, who will be up against so many of his friends, and I’m sure he’ll be after leaving a mark or two on a few. There’ll be no holding back from both sides, and I should imagine Wigan will target him as they’ll know more than anyone the danger he poses.
Darren Wrudd: Not having had a chance to say a final farewell to Micky McIllorum at Wigan, I can see the fans giving him a standing ovation as he takes the field. He gave an awful lot to our club and you only have to look at the Twitter reaction when he left to see how highly thought of he was by the Wigan supporters. So I hope he gets a proper reaction as he well deserves. After the whistle however, now that’s another matter.
Sean Lawless: Micky will receive a great reception from the Wigan fans, he provided 10 excellent years of service with distinction. The fact that his departure was received with some disappointment amongst Wigan fans speaks volumes. As well the reception from the fans, expect Micky Mac to have a warm reception for any Wigan players that run his way on Saturday, in true Micky Mac style!
Robert Kenyon: Micky will get a great reception from the fans, he left via the back door and didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to the fans. He was a fans favourite because of his aggressive style of play, something that us Wigan fans love to see whether it’s Kelvin Skerrett in his pomp, or the late great Terry Newton, we love a tough aggressive player who doesn’t take a backwards step, that’s why we still love Micky. Here’s his opportunity and ours to say thanks. I can’t see him having to buy a pint in Perpignan that’s for sure.