'Keeping Joe Burgess at Wigan Warriors a priority' - the 18th man column

Joe Burgess is out of contract this year
Joe Burgess is out of contract this year

Our 18th man columnists discuss contracts, Toronto - and reveal their all-time favourite London player...


Off-contract players can this week start talking with other clubs. Wigan have several off-contract including Joe Burgess, Dan Sarginson, Tony Clubb, Sean O'Loughlin and Thomas Leuluai - which player is the main priority?

Jon Lyon: As wonderful players as Leuluai and Lockers have been, sometimes the tough decisions have to be made, and with both very much in the twilight of their careers, it makes sense to look more to the future of the club. O’Loughlin is the single most important player we have, and has been for years, but his reduced playing time means I would go with trying to sign Joe Burgess up long term.

He hasn’t hidden his desire to return to the NRL, so it may take a big offer to keep him, but he is a potent attacking weapon and if we can keep Burgess and Gildart together for a few more years it’s hard to see a better pairing in the league.

Darren Wrudd: From the few in the squad I know about, I would certainly say it is between Tony Clubb and Joe Burgess. Both have a massive impact on the field but I think we almost forgot what Budgie could do with ball in hand.

His misadventure to the southern hemisphere I think has done him a world of good in making him a more mature player. Clubb, an ex-captain himself in his London days, is quite rightly cherished by the club and the boys themselves. Part of the leadership team, Clubb brings a great sense of experience and respected quality to the room when he enters and if he speaks, people listen.

Robert Kenyon: Joe Burgess first and foremost, with his age and ability we need to tie him up quick. Lockers and Leuluai will need to decide whether they are going to go round again, I’d sign them both up if they wanted to go again.

Sarginson is a valuable member of the squad and can play a few different positions and always gives 100 per cent. Tony Clubb has struggled with injuries and minutes on the field of late, he’ll be 32 come the season’s end so it’s up to him whether he carries on.

Jeanette Lusher: What a tough one to call! I value each of these players for different reasons but if I have to prioritise then I shall secure Joe Burgess. Joe is a tryscoring machine and he has such an affinity with his centre, Oli Gildart.

Together they form a devastating and effective partnership. It also has to be acknowledged that Joe’s return from injury this season really lifted a beleaguered side and raised the self confidence within the lads. As the team settles into Adrian Lam’s style of play then I can only see Joe becoming an even better prospect and an even greater asset.

David Bailey: A couple of years ago, this would have been a no-brainer, however times change. I’d have to say for me Clubb would be the priority having grown into his leadership role. O’Loughlin’s influence has lessened greatly and I’m beginning to think he should have bowed out after last year’s Grand Final. Tommy Leuluai still puts in a defensive shift but again I think age has caught up with him. Burgess is always a threat but more so when Williams is playing so if he ups sticks will he still be the same?

Toronto drew 9,500-plus last weekend; would you like to see them in Super League?

Jon Lyon: No. I am still dead set against Canadian or American teams joining our league. Those crowd figures make good viewing on paper, but how many will ever come to our shores? It’s hard enough trying to fill Wembley, Old Trafford or Anfield with local fans, we have no chance if more and more of the league’s teams bring no away support.

I still don’t see how Toronto are sustainable in the long term, both in terms of developing local players as they seem to only sign Super League and NRL cast-offs, and creating a Canadian league, where other teams will want to play in Super League, and will the fans go to games if the clubs can’t all play over here.

Darren Wrudd: Really sorry if I am the odd one out here but no, I really don’t want to see Toronto in the Super League. It would be great to see them as part of a Canada or America’s league, with teams from their continent building into their own high-quality league giving international rugby league a new flavour.

But they will damage our game in the UK as we are not strong enough as a sport to financially support another outsider with no away fans and hardly any travelling fans going to watch the Wolfpack.

Can you imagine if Catalans and Toronto got to the Challenge Cup Final? Good grief, unless they played it at Wakefield for free, it would almost bankrupt the RFL. Wembley Stadium, the jewel in the crown, 80,000 capacity with 5 ,500 tickets pre-sold. I shall keep banging the drum to make our domestic game stronger, fill stadiums here first then financially the game will be much more tuned to expansion.

Robert Kenyon: I think Toronto would be good to have in Super League but they need to build firmer foundations first. I want to see genuine Super League quality Canadian players playing for Toronto first, and have them supplement them with overseas players otherwise they’ll be a flash in the pan franchise in Super League at the expense of a heartlands club.

I’d want to see junior teams, academy and reserves teams under the Wolfpack banner. All in all it’s crazy to think so many fans were watching Toronto play Swinton at rugby league – madness! I’m dubious as I remember the Manchester ice hockey team from the late 90s played in front of large crowds but they died a death, for Toronto to succeed they need to root themselves into the fabric of the city.

Jeanette Lusher: I would love to see Toronto in Super League so I could enjoy a fantastic holiday attending the away fixture! I think it is highly commendable how the management has promoted and marketed the game in Canada and I applaud the attendances they have recorded. Rugby league is the greatest game and should be viewed the world over I feel. I truly hope expansion such as this becomes the front-runner to global recognition and appreciation of the sport I love.

David Bailey: I think Toronto are a fantastic example of what can be achieved with the right hierarchy in place. The fact they got a record crowd for a game v Swinton says it all and the publicity they would generate could only be great for the game. Their clever commercial deals with air transit etc are a lesson to some of the heritage clubs.

Wigan-London – what are you expecting?

Jon Lyon: I would be very disappointed with anything other than a Wigan win. If we can’t beat the bottom team at home then we are in for a tough rest of the season. London have surpassed expectations so far, but seem to be in a bit of a slump, and after an improved defensive showing against Castleford, and hopefully better weather to throw the ball around in, we should be looking at a comfortable win if the effort matches the talent on show.

Darren Wrudd: Now the newness of the challenge has worn off and professional rugby league is the norm, I expect London to be a challenge. Although they sit at the base of the table, they have beaten us once this year and will arrive in Wigan full of belief. We need to top the spirit we showed last week and make it the mantra of Wigan Warriors to defend everything. We know we can score points, so a tough game yes but I can’t see the Southerners doing a double over us.

Robert Kenyon: I expect us to avenge the loss from earlier in the year, I expect us to take our frustrations out on London and give them a good beating if I’m perfectly honest. I am also expecting a better performance from our props, looking at the stats from the Castleford game they ought to be embarrassed so I’m expecting a good performance from them as they are more than capable.

Jeanette Lusher: I am anticipating a very emphatic victory for the following reasons. We are much stronger in the forwards than when we last met at the Trailfinders Sports Ground. Each week I see Zak Hardaker playing even better and getting back to his formidable self. We have a combination of returning players and very enthusiastic youngsters so there is a freshness and competitiveness in the team.

The playing surface is not as fast or as unpredictable but is certainly bigger than the London pitch. Our defence is beginning to resemble that of previous seasons and our attack is, at times, brilliant to watch.

Our discipline is more controlled and we are giving away fewer penalties and conceding less territory. We are respecting the ball and applying good kicking options to tire the opposition, build pressure and gain territorial advantage. My final reason is that we owe them one!

David Bailey: As long as it’s warmer and a tad more exciting than the Castleford game I’ll be happy. I think Wigan really do need to kick on, the defensive effort against Cas was brilliant given the conditions so the Warriors now need to get their “go forward” going.
Making metres was painful against Cas so I’m expecting a focus on this against the Broncos.

Who’s your all-time favourite London player (based on form for Broncos/Quins)?

Jon Lyon: Looking back through some of the players to play for London over the years I was staggered how many household names have spent a season or two there. Chad Randall was an outstanding hooker and Rob Purdham could definitely have played at a – no disrespect intended – higher level. But the player I enjoyed watching the most was the fantastically named Steele Retchless. He was a tireless second rower who tackled himself into the ground in every game, setting a record of 66 tackles in one game, and memorably scored the last-minute try to take London to Wembley in 1999.

Darren Wrudd: Favourites come in all different guises, as players they have had some crackers. Jon Wells as an up-and-coming winger was brilliant for the Broncos while the player with my favourite name of all time had to be Steele Retchless.

But I find myself torn as both my top favourites are still playing and one won’t be a popular choice. Louis McCarthy-Scarisbrook is just so darned annoying with his childish enthusiasm that I can’t help liking him. A great forward who can play centre too is a real threat and a fantastic part of the squad over the hill. But I suppose Tony Clubb epitomises what a modern professional player should be. Tough and uncompromising on the field while gentle, generous and a positive energy away from the game. So Clubby gets it from me.

Robert Kenyon: There’s been many London players I’ve liked from Jim Dymock, Terry Matterson, Tulsen Tollett to Scott Hill, Luke Dorn and Rob Purdham but always liked Mark McLinden when he was at London, he was a player who could have been snapped up by a bigger club and he’d have done well.

Jeanette Lusher: I absolutely loved Steele Retchless! What a fantastic name for a rugby league forward! It was a name he certainly lived up to because he was beyond tough and he never took a step backwards. He was a tackling machine and held the record for the number of tackles in a match – 66! He played in 83 consecutive games for London and set a club record of 202 appearances in total for the Broncos.

Perhaps his greatest moment for London came with his last minute match winning try in the 1999 Challenge Cup semi final that took London Broncos to their first ever Wembley final.

David Bailey: Geez what a tricky question. I think I’d have to throw a curve ball in and go for Tony Rae. He only had a short playing career with the Broncos but he just comes across as a great guy with a huge rugby league heart and was one of the few administrators that spoke sense.
That Jarrod Sammut was a good lad too. Wonder what happened to him...