The 18th man column: '˜What message would signing Zak send to young players?'

Our 18th man columnists talk Hardaker, jet-lag and the Widnes clash...

Thursday, 1st March 2018, 12:50 pm
Zak Hardaker has 'had many second chances', says Darren Wrudd

Would you be happy to see Zak Hardaker in a Wigan shirt?

Jon Lyon: This is such a tough question. Hardaker has proved a quality player throughout his career and in theory would be an asset to any side. The issue is whether he can put his problems behind him and concentrate on his career.

We certainly don’t need him at fullback with Sam and Escare fighting for the number one shirt. Would Zak be happy to play in the centres? He didn’t do so well there when playing in the NRL for Penrith but that may have been down to personal struggles with his family so far away at a tough time in his life.

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Liam Marshall's try helped Wigan finish strongly at Warrington

One thing is for sure, if we don’t snap him up someone else will. As I’m not a huge fan of Sarginson I think I’d be willing to take a punt on him, on the condition he moves to Wigan and leaves behind those bad influences from his past, maybe insist he stays with someone from the club to keep an eye on him at first.

Only time will tell if he can turn his career around or if he will be another Rangi Chase or Gareth Hock.

Sean Lawless: I would love to see Zak Hardaker given an opportunity by Wigan, he is a quality player that has notably had his troubles of the pitch but a quality player nonetheless. An area in which Wigan are weak in at the moment is the centre spot and although Hardaker would probably prefer to be a fullback, he has test caps for England in the centre position and what a great addition he would be to the backline. Wigan have a great culture at the club and if Hardaker buys into that, he could finally knuckle down and be recognised for everything he is capable of doing on the pitch.

Darren Wrudd: Not really. ZH has had many second chances already and it would send a message to the youngsters that it does not really matter how you treat people, whether or not you take drugs, whatever else you think you can get away with so long as you don’t get caught. But if you do get caught, look sheepish, say sorry and promise, cross your heart, not to do it again. Until next time that is.

Liam Marshall's try helped Wigan finish strongly at Warrington

Wigan pride themselves on their good standards of behaviour on and off the field. This would be one of the biggest steps backward in the integrity of our club that I can remember. Please Mr Lenagan, don’t let it happen.

David Bailey: That’s a million dollar question isn’t it? Zak Hardaker is an extremely talented rugby player, that goes without saying, however he has had several off field misdemeanours.

Wigan have already been slated for even considering signing him following the announcement Castleford had terminated his contract.

That being said Wigan offer redemption to players and have a good track record when you consider the way they stood by the likes of Gareth Hock and Ben Flower following their long bans. Personally I would rather avoid Hardaker, because it will shine the spotlight on the club for the wrong reasons once again.

But if he does pull on the Cherry and White Shirt in the next couple of years I will back him as I do every other player. He has achieved more in a short and trouble riddled career that most players can only dream of and adds an extra dimension to any team he plays in. What can’t be denied is that Wigan’s leadership under Lenagan has been a success and you have to trust his (and Radlinski’s) judgement.

Was travel to blame for the 16-10 loss at Warrington?

Jon Lyon: Despite what the players and coach have said before and after the game, when you consider Hull and Leeds also both lost I think you would have to say travel has definitely been a factor.

I feel somewhat sorry for the players for the stick they have had after the game. For once I don’t agree with Wane’s post match comments, just saying travel won’t affect the players doesn’t make it so.

If everyone else suffers jetlag, without playing the toughest sport on the planet, then why should we think our players won’t?

To be on the back foot for an hour after all that travelling and still only concede two tries shows fantastic commitment in defence, which will stand us in good stead for the rest of the season. Credit has to go to Warrington too for dominating from the start, and as usual they save their best performances of the season for when they play us.

Sean Lawless: Before the defeat to Warrington, Wigan were keen to play down the effect of travelling and jet lag but its clear to see that it had a big impact on Wigan. Not only Wigan, Hull and Leeds also losing at the weekend suggests that the jet lag effect wasn’t simply a theory, it was fact.

For Wigan, it was a case of getting through the game and seeing what happens. To only lose by six points probably points to Wigan’s resolved and/or Warrington’s attack but, we move on.

Darren Wrudd: I think travel was to blame but more in the minds of the players rather than the bodies. We showed that we were still fresh and finished the game far stronger than Warrington, but you only need to check social media for the current attitude of some of the players who seemed too tired to turn out before a ball was kicked. Our decisions on last play and structure was awful at times, so much so that we looked fatigued. Mentally I think we have a long way to come before we are strong enough to challenge consistently.

Shaun Wane has the right attitude, but it seems like he has trouble instilling that into the whole squad sometimes.

David Bailey: I personally don’t think the travel helped the Warriors’ preparations, but physically they looked the equals of the Wolves last week and seemed to be the stronger team at the end. I would say though it could have been mental fatigue.

Things that have clicked so far just didn’t work out this time and for once the Warriors looked short on ideas. Obviously Shaun Wane was forced to play John Bateman at centre as he believed that was the best option but to be fair, most of Wigan’s expansive rugby this season has been down the left edge, but Warrington seemed to have the measure of the Warriors and blunted their attack for the game.

What are you hopes and expectations of the game against Widnes?

Jon Lyon: Widnes have made a fantastic start to the year and thoroughly surprised me. I expected them to finish bottom by a considerable margin, but with two convincing wins over Catalans and Leeds and two narrow losses to Warrington and Castleford they can be very happy so far.

Widnes have often performed well against Wigan, almost as if it’s their cup final for the year, but the sentiment of Shaun Wane and the players’ attitude in response to the loss at Warrington should see us put in a much better performance this week.

I’m expecting Wigan to fly out of the blocks with a dominant performance from our pack, which I hope is going to be rotated in the coming weeks, and hopefully we will see the more flowing style of rugby we’ve been promised, especially if a big crowd turns up to the first home game of the season and gets behind the team.

Sean Lawless: Potential arctic like weather aside, Wigan need a good performance as well as a result on Friday. They need to put together the best bits that we saw at Salford and the good attack minus the mistakes that we saw against Hull. It’s a big game for Wigan, first game back at the DW since the lacklustre display against Castleford last year, its a real opportunity to win some hearts and minds of the Wigan public and I fully expect them to do exactly that.

Darren Wrudd: At the moment, my hope is just that we get a win. Widnes are flying and full of confidence after pasting Leeds, so we will need to show some real commitment to concentrating on every play to come away with the points. I expect a scruffy win, which would be a disappointing outcome. I would love to see a proper wake-up call thrown at our halves and some decent structure in our attack. If everyone stays sharp we can be unbeatable, but that’s not happened often enough recently to expect it yet.

David Bailey: Obviously this weekend sees the return of the Warriors to the DW and hopefully there will be a sizeable crowd because of this and the game not being televised. Widnes come into the game in mixed form after a poor performance against Warrington backed up with a great win against a depleted Leeds Rhinos. Obviously the Vikings are a different proposition on their iPitch so I would like to see a return to the slick rugby Wigan showed against Salford and Hull.

Whereas the Warrington game was a free hit in my opinion, this game is a must win if the Warriors are to be contenders for the League Leaders’ Shield. So I suppose I’d like to see a decent performance and result in front of a sizeable crowd. A second consecutive defeat after the game in Australia will just add fuel to the fire of the naysayers that said it was a bad idea.