The 18th man column: Micky's exit best for all parties?
Our 18th man columnists give their thoughts on the exit of Micky McIlorum and Anthony Gelling...
Micky McIlorum has been released to join Catalans. Thoughts?
David Bailey: I completely understand the logic in allowing McIlorum to leave. Tommy has played hooker for both New Zealand and NZ Warriors for the last few years, Sam Powell came of age during McIlorum’s long injury and young Josh Ganson is getting to the stage where I’d expect him to feature.
With Leuluai having a position on the coaching staff when he retires, it was clear to see Micky was the odd one out, despite the clubs line that they weren’t “standing in his way”.
Regardless of the logic, and even withstanding the sentiment of releasing a guy that came through the ranks despite being a Leeds lad, McIlorum is the definition of a Warrior. His attitude, tenacity and aggression will be sorely missed, and despite not being a Wiganer, he fought for the badge, he always had his team mates backs and he just got it. I am sorry to see him go but I think Wigan were afraid of losing Powell had they kept him and from a long term perspective it seems like the right call.
Darren Wrudd: It must be a tough decision at the top when a player seemingly in their prime gets offers of much more money from other clubs. Whether to let them go and put some money in their bank as they come to the end of what is a short career, or to be a little selfish and keep them to a contract. With my fan’s hat on, I would argue that we need the best here at Wigan and after the poor run that we have had recently, mainly due to injuries, we need a good 2018.
But with my player welfare hat on I am happy to see Michael travel to the south of France for a couple of years to perhaps help set him up for his life after rugby league. Let’s be honest, this lad like many others has given so much to this club and has shed blood in our name on many occasions, so good luck to him and let’s look forward. We have enough high quality players to more than fill in and a shake-up might do us good.
Sean Lawless: Ultimately it is the right decision for all parties but it seems to have been dealt with poorly by Wigan, which is unusual. To let a player go, to another Super League club, two days after his testimonial year ends doesn’t sit well. However, on a playing front, I do think it is the right decision to allow Leuluai and Powell to share the No.9 jersey with a view to Josh Ganson coming through the ranks.
Jon Lyon: Absolutely devastated, there’s no other way to put it. Since I heard the news I’ve been quietly sobbing in my room, hugging my Micky Mac testimonial shirt, cursing 2018 already.
I would be very interested to know why he has left, the club seem to hint he wanted to go and Micky suggests he was told he wasn’t wanted. I would be stunned if Shaun Wane didn’t want Micky in his team anymore, he seems exactly the kind of warrior Wane loves, and as his performances in the World Cup showed he seems back to his best after his awful injury. I know we have good replacements in Powell, Ganson and Leuluai but along with Sean O’Loughlin there is a noticeable difference in Wigan’s performance when Micky goes off the pitch.
I wouldn’t have begrudged him a move to the NRL if Canberra had come calling, as rumoured, but to let him join a Super League rival seems a strange move, I think you can guarantee a man of the match performance from Micky when we next play Catalans, he seems the type of man who excels when he has a point to prove. I guess we can do no more than thank him for all he’s done and wish him all the best.
What are your favourite memories of McIlorum and Anthony Gelling at Wigan?
DB: Jeeez how do you pick out the memories of either of these guys. McIlorum always seemed to save is most ferocious performances for against Leeds and I remember the magic Weekend game in 2014 when along with Bateman they stood up to the Leeds pack, Peacock and Bailey and really rattled the Rhinos with Micky even scoring a try. Gelling, well he was a character on and off the field but I will remember a young immature guy that came from the other side of the world and slowly became one of the biggest assets Super League had. He wasn’t the best player and was just as likely to lose you a game as he was to win it, but he has that x factor, the tweets, the videos, the raps. He’s the type of guy that engages the young fans and makes them want to watch and play and he will be sorely missed.
DW: Meeting Michael McIllorum has to be one of my favourite memories of him. A more tough and uncompromising opponent you could not imagine and yet meeting a person with such an approachable and respectful manner was a wonderful experience. I once bought him large Southern Comforts all night at an end of year dinner, and the next year just gave him a bottle. I don’t think he remembered much of where it came from but seemed to enjoy the night. Anthony Gelling, what can you say. From golden push bikes and crowns to one of the most audacious penalty charge downs ever seen, he usually managed to put a smile on your face as do the videos he has released, which are genius and it says so much about his character that the lads all join in. The many times he nearly gave me heart attack with wild passes and the strangest approach to our lovely game can be forgiven for the sheer class he showed in between.
Robert Kenyon: I’m a little sad with the news that both players have left out of the back door. It would have been a nice touch for the fans to say their goodbyes to both players who have given their all to the club.
When we signed Anthony Gelling some years ago he was a project signing and over the last two or three seasons had come into his own. His best time at the club I’d say was when he formed a great trio along with Joel Tomkins and Dom Manfredi and were scoring tries for fun on the right flank with crazy offloads. Other than that he was a true character, something that the game needs. He was the type of player that kids would try to emulate on a Sunday morning with his celebrations.
It was sad to see McIllorum leave, he is one of the last remaining players at the club that played during the 2006 season, only Joel and Lockers are still playing from that season. I remember the constant comparison with James Roby from the Saints fans when if truth be told, both are fantastic hookers with different facets to their games. It wasn’t until Mark Riddell and Michael Maguire came over and once both left he came into his own in the 2011 season becoming one of the first names on the team sheet and a player that opposition players and fans hated, feared and respected. There aren’t many of those left which is a shame. I could understand if he went to the NRL as he’d won everything at Wigan, he may want a new challenge, who knows. But he will get a hero’s welcome the next time we play Catalans and it’ll be a chance for the fans to say thank you and farewell to him. He was a fierce competitor, someone who I’ve always felt was ignored at international level but he’s the type of player you want representing your country, especially against the Aussies. He showed his class in the World Cup and how good a player he is with his medal collection.
SL: My favourite McIlorum moment has to be his try in the 2013 Grand Final followed by his celebration in front of the Warrington fans. For the Man of the People, it has to be his penalty charge down against Brisbane, a bonkers maverick – best of luck to both of them.
JL: I think Micky’s contribution to Wigan is best summed up by the standing ovation he received when making his comeback from injury last season. Never the flashiest player with many stand out moments, he was the model of consistency who, like Terry Newton before him, was the kind of player who you loved to have on your side and hated playing against. A niggly player who did everything to disrupt the opposition, his brutal and tireless defence saved many a try for Wigan.
Anthony Gelling is the polar opposite to Micky. A lack of consistency overall has prevented him becoming a truly top class centre but he was capable of flashes of inspiration/madness that no other player could dream off. A personal highlight was his hat trick against St Helens, a dream for any Wigan player. There can be no other player who has embraced a club more than Gelling. The Man of the People clearly loved the club and its fans and his personality, enthusiasm and eccentricity will be sorely missed, even if the missed tackles and knock ons won’t. His departure leaves Wigan short of that moment of magic to break open a tight game, something hopefully Sam Tomkins and George Williams can replace.
After Chris Ashton admitted he would like to play for Wigan again - would you like him back?
DB: After the uproar with resigning Dan Sarginson added to the fact the way Ashton departed all those years ago, I can’t say I’d like him back. But not because of those factors. I just don’t see what a 30-something outside back would offer Wigan. I think that full back, half backs and wings are well stocked and centre appears to be a problem across the league, not just at Wigan. I genuinely just can’t see how Ashton would improve Wigan. If I was to sign anyone from rugby union to Wigan it would be Owen Farrell but having been named the best player in the world that’s never going to happen is it.
DW: If I remember correctly, Chris Ashton was the ‘chosen one’ here at Wigan and we let Chris Melling go after he appeared on the scene showing great promise. Ashton, having received the under-21s player of the year signed a contract, then tore it up halfway through the first season to go and play kick and clap, not looking back at the hole he left in the Wigan squad. Now that he has lost form, got older, made some cash and a little fame, he wants to come back and be the prodigal son. Nah, not for me. We have better and more dedicated players coming through all the time who will pledge their best years to our wonderful club. I am sure he is a lovely lad, but I would not have him back if he were free of charge.
SL: No thanks. Chris Ashton burnt his bridges when he left and the manner of his departure with fans as far as I am concerned. I don’t want Wigan taking back someone who would be at the end of their career, in positions that Wigan are well covered for. No thanks Mr Ashton.
JL: I wasn’t sorry to see Ashton leave and I won’t be happy to see him back. A decent attacking player, his defence was never good enough for Wigan, and all those years in Union won’t have improved that. Coming to the end of his career I don’t see what he would bring to Wigan. Ashton would surely command a pretty high wage, and we already have Manfredi, Davies, Marshall, Burgess, Tomkins and Escaré to cover the wing and full-back positions.