The 18th Man Column: Wigan Warriors' wing options
Our 18th Man columnists discuss wing options and the Catalans clash...
With Liam Marshall out for up to a year and Joe Burgess thought to be heading to Salford at the end of this season, do Wigan need to recruit a winger for 2021?
Alex Graham: I wouldn’t be so quick to recruit another winger. For all we know Marshall’s recovery could be quicker than expected and based on what we’ve seen of Bibby I think his best position is on the wing.
We’ve also got a world-class academy to promote from. If injuries don’t seem to be improving and our academy don’t have replacements up to speed I don’t think there will be an issue in recruiting a half decent winger for a short term option compared to other positions.
Darren Wrudd: You could not predict it could you? From a seemingly embarrassment of riches on the wings to one injury causing a dramatic shortage to leave us vulnerable and thinking of who we might sign to plug the gap.
With Tom Davies already at Catalans and Burgess off to Salford, then yes, we would be foolish not to have someone lined up. If Bevan French is going to stay on for another year, which I doubt, then I would love to see him on the wing with Hardaker back in his best spot at full-back. This would give us some proper organisation in attack and solve the issue in one fell swoop. But I fear it will not be the case and can see a recruitment drive to bring in a speedster to try and fill the space temporarily left by Marshall’s injury.
Liam Marshall is one of the smaller wingers but leaves a huge pair of shoes to fill in his absence.
Sean Lawless: The injury to Liam Marshall is heartbreaking for him and Wigan. From having a great depth of wingers, we are looking very short next year and think we need to recruit.
There is however, a real opportunity for one of the players like Hankinson or Bibby to take their chance and really excel as winger during the remainder of 2020 and make themselves a first team regular.
Ste Ford: Burgess has already signed for Salford then I feel that we must recruit because neither Bibby or Hankinson for me can be considered as a strike winger.
Jon Lyon: There’s so many ifs and buts. If Gildart stays next year then Hankinson and Bibby will most likely be used as wingers rather than centres. That’s only if French stays and Hardaker doesn’t move to fullback. If we have signed Jai Field then he’s certainly fast enough to fill in on the wing. That’s only if we keep Hastings or Leuluai and don’t need Field in the halves.
I would like to see Hankinson given more of a chance. If we aren’t going to play him then he needs to leave for the sake of his career. For this reason I wouldn’t sign anyone unless there are major departures. I’d also be excited to see Umyla Hanley given a chance in the first team, and if he slots in at fullback it means French could move to the wing. The great thing about our club is there’s always another hungry talented youngster just waiting to be given a chance.
Catalans-Wigan - who do you think will win?
Alex Graham: As I mentioned in the build up to last week’s game, although we’ve been grinding out wins and was still top of the table up till the game our performances were inconsistent and over-reliant on individual efforts. I thought resting any player was poor judgement from Adrian Lam who had a false sense of security from our league position. I think Catalans will be really tough, especially with our senior props absent (yet again!) and Jackson Hastings yet to deliver on his marquee salary. Based on our performances since the competition resumed I think Catalans are favourites.
Darren Wrudd: I am sorry to suggest this but I don’t think we will win this one. Although I can’t see us serving up the same attitude as last week’s game, I don’t think we have enough depth at the moment of mature, high-quality players. Some great prospects, some up and coming stars, but we seem to have let too many go at the wrong time and then a few injuries or suspensions find us out.
Now some of the greatest victories of our past often include teams full of keen youngsters, but when you stand against the ex-Wigan players at Catalans, not to mention the rest of their squad, we look light.
I want to be proven wrong, I want to hear I told you so and I am sorry for doubting but we have yet to really show the ability to shine against a top side this year and Catalans are building a great squad mainly it feels like on the back of our academy.
Sean Lawless: After last week’s horror show, you have got to say this game is Catalans for the taking, however with some leadership back in the Wigan team, we could have a chance.
If there was ever a game in which we could benefit from the return of Sean O’Loughlin, this is the one! The next two weeks will tell us whether we are truly challengers this year or not.
Ste Ford: Catalans and I think that they will do it quite comfortably. Even with McNarmara in charge they are a better coached side than us. Injuries and suspensions just reinforce my fears for the game at the weekend. If Catalans get on a roll we could get a bit of good hiding on Saturday.
Jon Lyon: Ask me this two weeks ago and I’d have said Wigan edge a fantastic match but after last week who knows?
I would hope the below par performance against Hull KR will fire the lads up for a non-stop 80 minute performance this week.
Hopefully O’Loughlin and Leuluai are back to add some experience and leadership to our young pack.
The ridiculous ban given to Ben Flower is a blow and Catalans will look to take full advantage of being the first team to have home fans at a game.
If Hastings and French fire then Wigan always have a chance, but as much as I’m loathe to say it, I can see Catalans sneaking this one with the ex Wigan contingent all no doubt looking to put one over their old club.
I would be delighted to be proven wrong though!
Hypothetical: Of the five ex-Warriors in the Catalans side... who would you love to have in the current Wigan side?
Alex Graham: I’d have Sam Tomkins in the halves who will inevitably make that switch ala Darren Lockyer. I’d also have Tom Davies on the wing in place of the injured Liam Marshall. As much as I admire Micky McIlorum and think he’s one of our best players in current recent era, I stand by Sam Powell at hooker who I think is developing really well and proving to be a club leader.
Darren Wrudd: Without a doubt it would be Tom Davies. I like Tom and would have loved to see him stay at the club for years to come. Developing his game to be another home grown centre in time which I think would be a superb move for him with the right guidance.
The immediate cover he would give to our winger shortage is obvious, but he adds something to the squad, a quality of eagerness that is almost infectious. Michael McIllorum would always be welcome back as I still think he is probably the toughest player in the whole of Super League, but has been losing his cool just recently and we have enough costly players on the books at the moment. The ex-Wigan contingent will be desperate to put one over on us and although I want them all to do well - just not this week, eh lads.
Sean Lawless: As good as Sam Tomkins was and is, I enjoy watching the unpredictability of French in our side, so I wouldn’t make that swap, although Tomkins is the better player.
The player I would always take back is Micky McIlorum, he brings so much to a side and someone we could have done with last week against Hull KR!
Ste Ford: Got to be Sam Tomkins. He’s a far superior player than Hastings and I’m sure he would like to prove that this weekend.
Jon Lyon: My favourite of the five would be Micky Mc, I have always loved his aggression and the way he hunted players down on the pitch. With Sam Powell playing so well though we hardly need him.
Tom Davies would be handy right now with Marshall’s injury but it’s hard to look past Sam Tomkins.
How exciting a combination would Sam have with Bevan French and Jackson Hastings?
His game has changed over the years and he is a much more rounded player now. Who would play where I’m not sure but our outside backs would have a field day with that much creativity in the side.