The 18th man column: ‘Wigan should take a game to Dublin’

Sam Tomkins tackles George Burgess last Saturday
Sam Tomkins tackles George Burgess last Saturday

Our 18th man columnists discuss Wolves clash, Nuuausala’s exit, and where they would like Wigan to take a game ‘on the road’...

Do you think the mini-tour Down Under will impact on Wigan’s performance tomorrow?

Sean Lawless: We have already seen John Bateman tweet about his issues with jet lag this week and Wigan are not training this week other than a captain’s run on Thursday – there’s no doubt it will have an impact.

However, resting players against Souths could level that impact out a little. It will have an influence but what a challenge for the team and the coaching staff.

Ben Reid: It can’t not really. I’ve seen players tweeting about jet lag already, and it’s understandable.

The lads will be well up for the game on Friday, there’s no question about that. However, I do feel that we could tire out earlier than normal – and the interchanges will become crucial to a flowing, fast paced performance.

Frank-Paul Nuuasala left with two years remaining on his deal

Frank-Paul Nuuasala left with two years remaining on his deal

Warrington got a much needed win last week and will be well up for it this week, knowing they’ll have a little bit of an advantage against, what will more than likely be a lacklustre Wigan. It’s only the third game of the season, while a win would be brilliant, it’s hardly going to define our 2018.

David Bailey: Of course the travelling will have an impact on the fitness of the players this week, with no real training preparation and a short turnaround, this plays right into Warrington’s hands.

That being said Wigan and Wane seem to relish these types of physical and mental challenges and for me it’s a free hit for the Warriors. Their form at the Halliwell Jones isn’t the best anyway so if Wigan do win it will be a huge bonus and will once again raise question marks for the Wolves.

Robert Kenyon: Warrington have been poor and we may be suffering from jet lag. I can’t see it being a great game, but I think we will have enough to win it.

We played all the squad against Souths so should be fresh, it’s just how we recover from the travel that will decide which way the game goes.

Darren Wrudd: I think it’s a challenge and the psychology of sport is the biggest hurdle these days. One thing I do like about Shaun Wane is that he sees things as a way to offer players a chance to stand up to that challenge.

It would be easy to sit back and blame jet lag and two tough games on a loss that we have not yet faced, but I want two points from this game and I won’t accept that our young, super fit and eager players will want to take any excuses onto the field.

At that age I’d be buzzing at the chance to shine and I am sure they will feel the same. I am expecting an energetic and professional performance – just to prove the point.

Jon Lyon: It seems inevitable the travelling will have some impact on the squad, and there will be a lack of preparation time once the team is back in the UK.

Fortunately we came through the games in Australia injury free, unlike Hull, and rested several players in the second half against South Sydney, so we should be able to put a decent team out on Friday, and i’m still confident we can beat a Warrington team that hasn’t set the world alight yet this season.

Frank-Paul Nuuausala has left – was his form as poor as some would have you believe?

Sean Lawless: FPN’s form in 2016 was actually good, 2017 was poor. In 2017 he seemed to lose the aggression we saw from him in 2016, go back to his home debut against Saints when he got sin binned; he had a confrontational streak in him that for one reason or another disappeared in 2017.

A player who is shot of confidence and doesn’t want to be at Wigan, on a decent salary – it’s the best move for all involved.

Ben Reid: Yes! I was never really a fan of the ‘wrecking ball’ to be honest. I think from the first moment he came in, there was this sense of expectation that he was going to be unstoppable with ball in hand and that he would quickly become our best forward. That was soon shut down.

I remember his first game against Leeds – I think he dropped the ball on his first run, and then knocked on later in the game. Since then, we’ve see glimpses of the potential, but nothing more. Making room on our salary cap is a good thing too – it’s just a shame we only saw the wrecking sponge.

David Bailey: Hand on heart FPN can’t be happy with how his Wigan career panned out. As a veteran NRL forward that played for the Roosters when they were in their prime, he came with big expectations. Perhaps he has been judged more on his reputation and had he been a young English forward he may have got more slack.

Honestly though, the man is a giant and he was so frustrating to watch as he seemed to slow down for impacts rather than just barrel into the opposition like Tautai does. Wigan’s squad won’t be any weaker with his absence and he will free up some useful space on the salary cap.

Robert Kenyon: If rumours are to be believed he was on big money, and most overseas signings don’t hit it off in the first year.

He came over for the latter part of 2016, enough time to get settled but 2017 didn’t work for him either.

And if I’m honest I don’t think we needed him. We need a grafter for a prop, not an impact prop.

When you ask questions about a big money overseas signing you just need to ask ‘Can one of the 19s or reserves so a similar job?’

And I think they’re more than capable or putting in better performances. Ben Kilner, Joe Bretherton and Sammy Kibula could all do a better job than him and at a fraction of the cost.

It’s a shame things didn’t work out because he came with a big reputation but at least he’s been honest with the club and left, fair play to him.

Darren Wrudd: Big Frank Paul would be the first to accept that he could have played better if he reached his own best standards in 2017 and I am sure that beyond the training and playing, there were many behind the scenes issues based around unsettled family which would have made him unhappy and less focussed on the job.

He stood up as a player in 2017 though and his ever present tag in another year of injuries, gave at least a semblance of stability.

But he never really earned his Aussie nickname up here. In my opinion he did not deserve the awful flak that he came in for and I honestly think he will look back on his time here as a chance missed, but a job done to the best of his ability at the time.

Jon Lyon: Frank-Paul’s problem is he came over with a big reputation, and for the most part failed to live up to it.

Having watched him over several seasons in the NRL I’m not sure where the Wrecking Ball nickname came from as he wasn’t particularly dominant over there, never in the same class as Sam Burgess, James Graham or Jesse Bromwich.

His performances haven’t been awful, but he hasn’t been the destructive, line-breaking prop we were led to believe we were getting.

That said, his family have never settled and that, as well as being half way round the world from the rest of his family and friends, and getting plenty stick from his own fans can’t have made it easy for him. I’m sure he tried his best but it wasn’t to be, I’d rather see one of our young lads given a chance instead.

Wigan have admitted they want to take more games ‘on the road’ – in an ideal world, where would you like to see them play?

Sean Lawless: Dublin! How about a Wigan game in Dublin?

For no reasons other than, seeing thousands of Wiganers in Dublin would be incredible. By ferry or plane, you could expect a decent following and Ireland is hopefully a target area for growth of 
international club rugby league.

Ben Reid: If they want to leave the UK, I think staying within decent flying distance would be ideal. I know we had a superb following down under, but if they would go to France, Spain or somewhere like that, they’d get double what they had in Australia.

It would be cheaper for the fans, and easier on the players.

Having said that, a game in America would be interesting. I feel we would take a fair few over there, and it would give them a great perspective on what type of crowd and atmosphere to expect come the World Cup in 2025. But, if they’re to make this a regular occurrence, then they need to look at their season ticket prices going forward.

David Bailey: If the Warriors are to continue their on the road games (bearing in mind they have taken games to London and Sydney) they need to take them to places that can have either a commercial or sporting benefit.

I’d be inclined to do something with the Toronto Wolfpack and maybe have a double header in North America and head to New York where the rumoured next franchise may be.

Some Wolfpack fans will travel I am sure and it would be a great opportunity to bring RL to the States and we would be in a much better position than when Wigan played Warrington in Milwaukee in 1989. Could even aim to play the Wolves there next season as a 30th anniversary game but for Super League points.

Robert Kenyon: If they played games on the road I’d be worried the players might get run over or scrape themselves on the tarmac! All bad jokes aside, we shouldn’t just take games on the road for the sake of it.

We need to get something out of it without alienating our staunch fan base.

Off the top of my head, the only places I’d like us to take a game on the road to are Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and maybe Toronto.

Those four locations either have teams or at least fans interested in rugby league or in the case of Perth, it’ll probably be the next NRL franchise team.

I wouldn’t bother just taking a game to the middle of nowhere, no matter how glamorous the location sounds. That’s what the Magic Weekend is for. Now in an ideal world I would like to watch Wigan play another team at a packed out Croke Park, Dublin.

Darren Wrudd: I think that Wigan need to be quite careful here as many fans will see games on the road as a home game lost to their ticket.

Marketed correctly, I like the idea of a single ‘on the road’ home game each year and I would like to see different areas of our country explored alongside overseas ventures too.

Outside the heartlands perhaps the lakes, North Wales, even the South of England, but then throw in Ireland, Europe and even United States of America which are all accessible.

I suppose that my biggest negative for all of this is that the British game has had such poor publicity for too long and feel that many Wigan fans at home have felt like second class supporters for a while now for a few reasons.

That needs to be addressed first in my mind to get the whole town back on board, feeling good about the club, the ground and our wendyball neighbours (great result against City by the way).

Then the marketing becomes easy and these trips are all sold out before you know it.

Jon Lyon: Whilst i still don’t agree with Toronto playing in our league, if we want the game to develop in Canada it seems wise to play a gam over there.

We could take four English teams over and play two Super League matches on consecutive weekends, one in Toronto and one in New York to spread the word stateside and offer some encouragement to those teams.