Comment: Is there really a 'crisis' at Wigan Warriors?

It's never needed too much for some to cry 'crisis' at Wigan.

Monday, 5th July 2021, 11:38 am
Updated Monday, 5th July 2021, 11:40 am
Derby action
Derby action

Fans will be feeling varying degrees of disappointment, depending on their expectations of this side.

But whether you're angry or upset, calling for an overhaul or questioning their form, there's no doubt the Warriors are doing it tough right now.

They simply haven't been good enough, and their recent results have reflected that.

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Their 24-6 defeat at St Helens last night was their fifth straight defeat.

For the first time, Sky Sports informed us, in 15 years.

Statistics, though, can easily be selected to suit a narrative; Lam actually suffered five straight losses as Wigan coach two years ago (one was a World Club Challenge) and went on to finish the season in second spot.

Predecessor Shaun Wane went five games without a win (one was a draw) in 2017, the year they won the World Club Challenge and reached Wembley.

Is that to excuse their current misery? No.

But if we're talking statistics, Wigan made their best start ever to a Super League campaign this year - were fans, then, hailing it their best line-up and clamouring to get Adrian Lam signed up to a new five-year deal?

Of course not.

They kept perspective... something which can easily get lost in the bleak week-to-week grind of five successive defeats.

Losing at Catalans and to Warrington are not, in themselves, shocks; what made those particularly painful was the scorelines, with both victors hitting the 40 point mark.

When Wigan are beaten, they are rarely battered.

And while a defeat at Wakefield was hardly a surprise, given 10 frontline stars were out, it was the loss to Hull KR - at home, in front of fans for the first time in forever - that was really tough to stomach. If you were to sit down at the start of the season and put a 'W' or 'L' next to the upcoming fixtures, that was one most would have got wrong.

St Helens on Sunday night was the sour icing on a nauseating cake.

In truth, most expected a wider margin - we all heard the gags about 'forfeit the game, take 24-0' - but after another scoreless slow start they managed to take whatever dignity comes from 'drawing the second-half'.

Nobody could accuse them of not trying, but the execution of their attack rarely matched the doggedness of their defence, their energy was sapped by an efficient Saints side and the frustration was evident in their indisciplined display.

Lam was careful not to blame the referee or blame injuries, but they have been without some of their more dependable performers for much of the campaign.

In their absence, some young players have seized their opportunity - towering 20-year-old forward Kai Pearce-Paul is a menacing attacking threat - and some have probably been over-exposed. Props who would probably be on the fringes and desperate to impress, have been guaranteed places.

It isn't their fault; they've not had the support of their senior colleagues.

Wigan - who let Ben Flower leave last year - planned for this season with five props aged 28-plus. Of those, Tony Clubb is banned, Brad Singleton has been banned, Joe Bullock plays limited minutes, Mitch Clark can't get into the squad, and George Burgess left before the season began.

Burgess, remember, was on a marquee contract thought to have been more than £200,000-a-year, and hasn't been replaced.

Clubs all took a financial hit from the Covid-19 pandemic - are Wigan making a saving from the departure of Burgess? If so, many fans say, please tell us.

They'd love a top-level prop. They'd love someone like Hull FC's Chris Satae, who could take the team, and the young forwards, to another level.

But if the club have decided to save the money instead, they'd love transparency, too.

The same with the decision not to recall Chris Hankinson on loan from London when Wigan have spent most of this year playing at least one forward at centre.

The fact Hankinson is a proficient goal-kicker would be a welcomed bonus; Lachlan Coote underlined the importance of a good marksman last night - half of St Helens' 24 points were from his boot.

Those are sensible questions for those above Lam, but it is he who is the public face of the company, the one fronting press conferences twice a week.

On Sunday night, he didn't look a beaten man; he spoke with pride and defiance, declaring that he knew in his heart that would turn it around - and go on a winning run.

It remains to be seen if those words are proved to be prophetic, but a look at the fixture list offers hope.

Of their next nine games, six are at home.

Of their next six games, five are against teams in the bottom four.

During that time, Wigan expect to welcome back Zak Hardaker, John Bateman, Clubb, Dom Manfredi and off-season signing Jai Field, one of the quickest players in the competition.

Wigan welcome Huddersfield on Sunday - Covid-permitted - and while many fans would love to see the flamboyant attacking style promised by Lam, for now, the side need a win.

Any win.

It doesn't matter how narrow it is or how ugly it is. They need to shake that metaphorical monkey from their back, prevent self-pity and self-doubt from creeping in, keep in touch with the play-offs spots.

And maybe, just maybe, silence some alarm bells.