What an anticlimax to all the hard work of the last two weeks. The way we’ve dug in after the disappointment of Wembley and won away at Saints and Hull left me really positive going into Sunday’s game.
Add to that the loss of Luke Gale and Ben Roberts for Castleford and I thought the Mission Impossible of a few weeks ago was now Mission Achievable. How wrong I was.
I don’t think I’ll ever understand what happened in that first 50 minutes.
There aren’t the words to describe how poor Wigan were. The defence was soft and there wasn’t any attack as we coughed up possession every time we had it. There hasn’t been that many dropped balls in such a short space of time since the seven dwarfs hit puberty. It was embarrassing.
For their part, Castleford didn’t even have the decency to roll over and let our march to the Grand Final continue. With nothing but momentum to play for, they still managed to out enthuse us for all but about 15 minutes of the game. Gale’s replacement scored a hat trick on his full debut and Paul McShane was banging over conversions from the touchline, that’s just rubbing it in.
The poor performance and result has seen many fans on social media calling for Wanes’ head. I’m as disappointed as anyone about the game but let’s keep a little perspective. We’ve reached the last four Grand Finals, won two, and if it wasn’t for a blatant Leeds knock on and Ben Flower’s moment of madness we could easily have won the other two. We reached the Challenge Cup Final and are World Club Champions. All this on the back of the two worst season’s injury wise I have seen in 33 years as a supporter.
People quickly forget how many debuts we had to give out earlier this season. We were 7th at the start of the Super-8s, and to be in with a good chance of making 3rd with two games to go, it’s only fair to give due credit to Wane and the rest of the coaching and medical team.
That said, our attack does seem to have become very predictable.
I’d like to see us playing deeper, having more dummy runners and supporting the ball carrier, and someone is going to have to help Williams out, it all seems to rest on his talented but still young shoulders. Wane deserves to stay but he needs an attacking coach to help him out. No-one would expect a former prop forward to come up with the greatest attacking moves, so hopefully with that in place we can look forward more positively.
Whilst rushing to the ground before the game after leaving the Christening celebrations of our wonderful family friend’s first grandchild Alexandra, I had no idea that in an hour or two I would wish that we had stayed behind for cake instead.
Full of excitement, having struggled against the odds to scrape our way back into the top-four just in time for the semi-finals, we were taught a lesson by a red-hot Castleford side. They were structured in attack, eager in defence and consistent as a team.
By contrast we were mostly reactionary in defence, flat (again) in attack and looked lacking the will to find the enthusiasm to do anything about it for much of the game. We gave ourselves half a chance in the second-half but then let in a ridiculously simple try to seal the win for Cas.
It simply cannot be overstated just how frustrating this season has been. Stringing together more than three wins on the trot since the Cronulla game has been impossible and the mid-season drop of seven games without a win shows a team with a real lack of confidence and consistency. All too often we hear how it is all just not good enough and whilst I agree, perhaps the players need building up to that high standard before they can be berated for not achieving it on a weekly basis.
I know we can play, we nilled Leeds among a couple of others, I know most of you will remember that but I just like seeing it in print.
But in 18 games this year we have conceded 18 points or more, that’s three converted tries and I sometimes wonder if we have lost that killer instinct which makes a champion side. I do however have faith in the coach, which I know many do not.
Proudly wearing his Cherry and White heart on his sleeve, I still believe that Shaun Wane is the right man for the job and I hope he builds on his intimate knowledge of every players strengths and weaknesses.
Well I believe that this will be our last game of the season, win or lose we are at the mercy of other results which will surely go against us and we only have ourselves to blame for that. But if that is indeed that for 2017, lets go out with a bang not a fizzle. Stand up to Wakefield and put some points on. Give the fans and players something on which to ponder over the closed season.
Writing this feels like I should be writing an end of season summary.
It might not yet be the end of the season but the game against Castleford certainly felt like it. To be honest the game almost summed up how Wigan have performed this season.
The Tigers came to town as league leaders (note to Cas fans: that DOESN’T make you Champions... yet) but even with a makeshift halfback combination of hooker Paul McShane and full debutant Jake Trueman they dominated Wigan for the first half.
Warriors just looked out of sorts in defence and looked bereft of ideas when they rarely ventured into the Tigers red zone.
The second half was a different story, when the Warriors staged a comeback of sorts, and in fact were just a few inches away from making it a one score game, before the Tigers pulled away.
If Wigan had got something out of the game, it would have been a bit of an injustice, don’t get me wrong, I am grateful that the Warriors can show so much spirit in adversity, the likes of John Bateman, Tom Davies, Sam Tomkins, Liam Farrell, really going for it when the chips are down, but why oh why does it need to be a lost cause (or in some cases this season almost a lost cause) before the Warriors fire and cause teams problems.
There seems to be a huge chasm in fan opinion at the minute, there’s some that just accept what is happening and will support the team regardless, which is admirable, whilst there are others that are quite vociferous in the need for change (both in playing staff and coaching staff).
Where do I sit on this? I honestly don’t know.
I will support Wigan whatever happens, but the fact that Cas thoroughly deserved a convincing win was certainly a sobering thought.
Are Wigan that bad? No, not at all, a WCC win, a Challenge Cup final appearance, and possibly a semi-place are not to be sniffed at, but for me it’s the manner that’s been the disappointment.
When Wigan play well, such is the talent at the coaches disposal, more often than not in years gone by, they win. Wigan have the best production line of youth in world rugby league, they have the name and resources to attract the best talent in this country, and up until the last few years, and Super League’s struggle against the ever widening salary cap disparity, could attract players of repute from across the globe.
The sad fact this season is that Wigan just simply haven’t been good enough, and the fact the play hasn’t been great to watch has just made matters worse.
Yes the main priority for Lenagan, Radlinski and Wane is to get results, to win trophies, to attract sponsors, but - and this is a big but - if Wigan don’t win, and the style of play is insipid, then the fans will start to drift and with that so will sponsors.
This week Wigan will know whether their last game is important or not.
The players owe it to the fans to produce and I think they will. Wigan’s best chance of a semi is by Cas beating Hull and fair play to the Tigers, they have continued to get results and perform despite having little to play for.
I expect them to want to finish off the season in style which could open the door for the Warriors and another “must win game” at Wakefield. As I have said, I don’t think Wigan deserve it, but I am sure we will all take it if they do.
I think that result just about summed up our 2017 season!
It was an absolute horror show for over an hour of the game, with there only been a 10-15 minute spell in which we actually turned up.
Even though we haven’t been great at home all season, I just didn’t see that first half performance coming at all, it was shocking.
It looked like the roles were reversed.
We looked the side who had nothing to play for, and Castleford the side desperately needing the win.
I just can’t explain the performance, it was bizarre. It was as if the players thought the win would just come, and that Castleford wouldn’t turn up.
But that didn’t happen, and from the get go, I think the crowd sensed it was going to be one of those afternoons at the DW.
However, while we were poor on the day, I couldn’t help but admire the Tigers’ desire and passion throughout, they were superb.
I thought young Jake Trueman had an unbelievable debut, and really stepped up in the absence of Luke Gale.
It seems they’ve a real talent on their hands, and I hope he gets another run out next week.
He could turn out to be their unlikely hero at Old Trafford.
Despite the horror show of last week, I’m still in a confident mood of getting into the top four, and I really think we will.
I can’t see Saints losing, but I do think Castleford will beat Hull at home tomorrow night. Many think they’ll lie down, I think last week’s game proved that they won’t.
It’s their final game before the play-offs. Yeah, they’ve another home game in the semi-finals, but they will want to end the Super 8s on a high.
They won’t want to go into the semi-finals on a loss – but instead with confidence on the back of a great win.
Either way, by the time our game comes around on Saturday we’ll know our fate. I’m going to Wakefield whatever the results tonight and tomorrow, but it’d be great going, which a mindset that a win could send us into the top four.
Whether it turns out to be a must win on Saturday, or if it’s just our last game of 2017 – I think we win that game at Belle Vue.
In the words of Will from the Inbetweeners: ‘Well that was flipping dreadful’.
It looks as though our season ended there too.
The defeat at the hands of classy Cas virtually put pay to our season unfortunately, we do mathematically stand a chance but we’re clutching at straws.
If we think Salford, who I reckon most of their players will already be in holiday mode are going to turn Saints over they’re dreaming. After the season we’ve had we need a long sit down with ourselves and ask what does next season and the one after look like for us?
It’s been proven we can’t win without Lockers, somebody’s going to have to step up or we’ll have to look to outside the club for someone to lead the team, which I think is a sad state of affairs considering the talent and experience in the ranks.
We also need to look at the way we play, Castleford gave us a lesson in rugby league, and proper old school British rugby league. I’m sick of us following the Aussies with the focus on defence and the safety first attitude, Daryl Powell has bucked the trend and they have been great to watch. Sam Tomkins said Castleford haven’t changed the way the game is played, I hope they do though, I hope we start to play like them.
Then, we may have an increase in attendances. I always think that the average attendance of a club is a reflection on the previous season. Like in 2011, we had an increase in the average attendance due to the 2010 success as more people will buy season tickets.
Going off this I can see attendances dropping next season after the season we have just had with the way we have played. We seem to carry on with the same moves, nothing is off the cuff and I think this is the reason we haven’t seen the best of Gelling this year, we are too predictable. I just hope that we start practising playing good rugby on the off season, take the shackles off the players and let them play. We have the talent and it will be good to watch. I’m not Waney bashing, I want him to stay and I think he does a great job with our defence, it’s our attack which needs improvement.