In the second part of our 18th Man column, these Wigan Warriors fans look ahead to the Saints derby...
How important is it that Wigan beat St Helens?
Sean Lawless: Any game against Saints is an important one but this one feels similar to the game in the Super 8s last year at Langtree. A game in which St Helens will be clear favourites but playing Wigan at a time when their confidence and form is at a season’s best. A win on Friday would show that Wigan have top three ambitions, a defeat creates a battle for fourth and fifth with Castleford and Catalans.
Robert Kenyon: With the rumours of Holbrook looking to leave they might be on a bit of a downer which we could take advantage of. If we do win it will be the first win of the season where we would have beaten someone above us in the table, and to win silverware this year we are going to have to beat the best teams. They’ve beaten us twice this season and we really need a win against them.
I’d love to beat Saints just to burst their bubble again like Catalans did to them last season in the Challenge Cup Semi Final and the wheels fell off their season.
Jon Lyon: Aside from the obvious answer of it’s always vital to beat St Helens, this specific fixture doesn’t have any particularly meaning attached to it. It’s not a game we’re expecting to win and the result won’t define our season. With so many of our forwards missing for one reason or another, trying to match the likes of Walmsley and Thompson is a huge ask for our young pack.
What is important is we show improvement on previous derby games and are competitive for the full 80 minutes. If our forwards and backs can prove they can up their game then it will give us confidence if and when we meet again in the play-offs. We only have to beat them when it matters, and if we win against Saints in the play-offs or at Old Trafford then no-one will care if we lose this Friday. Well, not too much, it’s still the derby after all.
Darren Wrudd: As ever it is the local derby which we always look for in the fixture list and as important as any game against the plastic scousers from over Billinge hill. But nothing will be decided tomorrow evening, other than mid season bragging rights. Until the final hooter at Old Trafford, Wigan Warriors are still the champions of Super League and no amount of premature celebration can change that. So yes, a performance from our boys is a must and I expect no less, the result will look after itself and I feel an upset on the cards.
David Bailey: In terms of Wigan’s fight for a play-off spot, it’s vital. In terms of bragging rights, it’s imperative. In terms of sending a message out to the rest of the league and laying down a marker, it’s crucial.
That being said, I’d sacrifice this “Bad” Friday game if it meant we were guaranteed to beat them in another game this season. Nothing will be won or lost on Friday but we definitely owe Saints one and following the feel good announcements (Jackson Hastings in particular) it would be good to take them down a peg or two.
Jeanette Lusher: Admittedly a win would really be the icing on the cake to make it six in a row but I shall be happy whatever if the lads wear the Wigan shirt with pride. Certainly this is the biggest test in the team’s resurgence and it will be a good benchmark as to where our capabilities are at.
We are very light in the pack and I’m sure this will have been addressed in our game plan. The main priority to securing a victory, for me, is the tiring out of their front row so turning them around with a good kicking game is a must. We are blessed with field kickers the likes of Hardaker, Hankinson, Sammut, Williams, Leuluai and Powell so several options to outwit Saints.
We need more inventiveness with grubber kicks and chip kicks to deal with the defensive line and perhaps the possibility of a short 10 metres. We must tackle well and clamp the ball as Saints are very dangerous in open play. The team must concentrate for the full 80 and be really alert. Our discipline will also be a major factor. I feel that Saints have not been as convincing recently but this is a derby with home advantage so they will undoubtedly be giving it their all.
This could be Roby’s returning game after injury but I have great confidence in Sam Powell being able to deal with him most effectively. I am also relishing the prospect of Coote and Hardaker facing each other and I am most definitely looking forward to the competition between all four wingers.
What do you think of Sky Sports’ decision not to televise the derby?
Sean Lawless: At the time the decision was made and the form of Hull KR and Leeds, you can understand the decision. However, in 2019 and the ability to stream games to various platforms and the use of the red button on Sky, the fact that it has been ignored completely highlights Sky’s lack of vested interest in Super League as a product anymore. A Friday night when there is no football, a top of the table battle and a relegation scrap on two channels for fans to flick between – a missed opportunity, again.
Robert Kenyon: They must have someone new who hasn’t got a clue about rugby league. Neville Smith used to love the Wigan v Saints derby and that’s probably why it was shown on Sky every time but whoever has decided Leeds v Hull KR should be shown instead needs their head testing. Since Smith left Sky the coverage does seem to have down hill with action replays or one-toothed drunk and topless fans in the crowd being shown instead of the actual game. By not having it on TV shows contempt for our game and if I were in charge of rugby league, with the TV deal up next year I’d be seriously considering and actively looking at leaving Sky if the right offer came along. On a side note there’s been an advert for what’s on Sky in summer and there was all sorts advertised even football, golf, cricket, netball, women’s cricket, women’s NBA but no mention of rugby league. Sky take us for granted.
Jon Lyon: It’s an appalling decision. The derby is one of those games in a season that fans of all clubs want to watch, not just Wigan and St Helens supporters. I can understand Sky wanting to show Leeds v Hull KR as it could have a big outcome on what happens at the bottom end of the table. Why on earth they ever picked Hull v London on a Thursday night is beyond comprehension. This has to be a weekend fixture to give London fans any chance at all of getting all the way up to Hull, and home again, so common sense should have seen Sky showing the derby and the Leeds v Hull KR games on Thursday and Friday. It’s not rocket science.
Darren Wrudd: It’s ridiculous really, pandering to make a relegation battle where some people will no doubt lose their employment and clubs will struggle to finance 2020 a so called exciting prospect. No matter that the biggest derby in rugby league is set to be a massive contest, it would seem that Leeds still have some hold over the decision makers at Sky Sports. Looking down at the worst in the league as more worthy of broadcast does not really highlight our product on the big stage. But give Leeds their dues, they won’t get much publicity in the Championship next year.
David Bailey: I really don’t see what all the fuss is about, Sky must be loving the attention the decision has garnered but when the choice was made, there was a lot more at stake in the Leeds Hull KR game and still is. Saints lose and it doesn’t affect anything. Obviously Wigan losing gives Catalans and Cas a chance to fight for a play off spot and they both have very winnable albeit away games.
Jeanette Lusher: I feel sure that had Sky been blessed with a crystal ball to foresee our run of five wins on the trot then they would have covered this derby.
However I can understand their choice, made a while ago, with how close the relegation battle is turning out to be this season. I don’t think for a moment that it was an easy decision to make as Wigan/Saints derbies always get high viewing figures. Sadly there will be a lot of supporters from both sides who are unable to get to the game for various reasons and I feel they will be gutted not to be able to watch the game live. Here’s hoping that Sky have missed out on an absolute blockbuster that ends in a terrific Wigan win!