Wigan Warriors- Talking rugby: The play-offs will provide the excitement we've been waiting for

The play-offs get underway this week and they can’t come soon enough.

It’s safe to say the final few weeks of the regular season felt like a bit of a drag, with the majority of the games being a little stale.

There are a few reasons for this, including the fact that most of the matches were loop fixtures, as there is nothing entertaining about coming up against the same opponent twice in just over a month.

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Another factor is the majority of teams had nothing to play for by the time the final weekend came.

Wigan Warriors will enter the play-offs on September 16 but will be missing a few players through injuryWigan Warriors will enter the play-offs on September 16 but will be missing a few players through injury
Wigan Warriors will enter the play-offs on September 16 but will be missing a few players through injury

For most, the campaign just turned into play-off preparation or an end season cool-down.

This led to teams just resting players in order to preserve energy.

Wigan named seven debutants for their trip to Hull KR, while Catalans Dragons had 10 players making their first senior appearances in their game at the DW Stadium.

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This is also a result of a ridiculous schedule, where games have been carelessly crammed in.

You can’t blame coaches for heavily rotating their sides, especially when some clubs haven’t had a choice anyway due to mass injury problems.

Of course, there have been some highlights in the last month, such as the Warriors’ derby game against St Helens or the play-off place decider between Leeds Rhinos and Castleford Tigers.

Nonetheless, as a sport rugby league needs to be better and more strategic in its season planning in order to keep it competitive until the end.

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Thankfully, the rest of the campaign will show Super League at its very best.

There is nothing quite the play-offs, due to the pressure and intensity that comes with that.

Don’t be shocked if there are some surprises along the way, as it’s a period where anything can happen and league position means nothing.

None of the teams can be written off.

Salford Red Devils are in excellent form and will be hard to stop, Leeds Rhinos have history of peaking at the right time and will be on a high from securing their spot, Huddersfield have been excellent all season and will be determined to reach another final, while the Catalans squad oozes quality.

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Of course, lets not forget Wigan and Saints are in the mix as well, and are probably the two favourites.

Both are off this week after finishing first and second, and will enter the semi-finals slightly more refreshed than the rest.

Ahead of this period the Warriors have been dealt a couple of blows.

Liam Farrell will miss the entirety of the play-offs due to the knee injury he picked up a few weeks ago, while Cade Cust’s availability also looks unlikely at the moment due to an elbow problem.

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Matty Peet’s side will definitely feel the loss of both players.

Farrell’s importance to the team can’t be measured, while Cust has been a fantastic addition this season and a great attacking asset.

In more positive news for Wigan, Thomas Leuluai made his return to action in the final game of the regular season, while Sam Powell may also be available again by the time September 16 arrives.

They miss the players who are out, but the main focus now has to be on the ones they have coming back.

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Reflecting on Wigan’s last outing, although they didn’t produce their best form against an inexperienced Catalans side, it was still enough to claim a comfortable win.

They never looked in trouble throughout the 80 minutes, even if things didn’t always click.

While they did make a few errors at times, they were still able to take their chances.

The young French players gave a great account of themselves, competing well and showing lots of enthusiasm.

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If the Dragons can build on this, then it will only be a positive for rugby league in France.

Something that does deserve to be spoken about from last week’s game, is Wigan’s initiative to hand out free tickets to key workers.

This was a great act by the club, and something that should be applauded.

During the current cost of living crisis, gestures like that go a long way.

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It’s a difficult time for a large majority of people, so for some a free ticket would’ve meant a lot.

It was also a great way of saying ‘thank you’ to a group of people who have been so important during the last few years, and it was fantastic to see so many in the North Stand.

Finally, this column presents one final opportunity to discuss Toulouse’s Olympique’s time in Super League.

It’s a genuine shame that it’s over for them, and the hope has to be that they’ll bounce straight back.

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Once again this is another example of the sport needing to plan ahead.

Toulouse should’ve been given a free hit for this year, as it is crucial for the growth of the sport that they succeed.

With a World Cup taking place in France in a few years time, the sport needs to be put in the shop window over there.

For a long time, Sylvain Houles’ side looked as if they might stay up without any additional support, but eventually the task was too big.

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The difficulties of going from the Championship to Super League is another big problem, and goes wider than just Toulouse.

More should be done to help any team from the second division, but it is about finding the right compromise of doing that and maintaining sporting integrity.