How Hodgson is helping kick-start the Warriors

The mercury was struggling to poke above freezing as Sam Powell struck another ball between the uprights at Wigan's training ground.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 20th December 2017, 11:37 am
Updated Wednesday, 20th December 2017, 12:40 pm

Behind him, kicking coach Charlie Hodgson watched as, further back, Wigan’s analyst Wes Smallshaw filmed the conversion on a tablet.

All three then crowded around the screen to watch a slow-motion replay of the goal.

And then they went through the process again.

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Charlie Hodgson has been brought in to improve Wigan's goal-kicking

And again.

And again...

“It’s good to be able to show them on the video what went well and what didn’t,” said Hodgson, speaking afterwards in the training-ground room named after one of Wigan’s greatest ever kickers, Pat Richards

“Everyone has a different style and where you start, where you kick the ball and where you finish are three big things.

Morgan Escare lines up a goal

“They can see it for themselves and if they get a better understanding, they can feel it for themselves and understand why it may not be going well, and correct it.

“Ultimately, on game-day they’re on the field and they have to correct it... so it’s about being able to feel it and correct it in a game situation.”

Hodgson, a master marksman during his decorated rugby union career, will work with Wigan’s kickers throughout the off-season.

He has already had three sessions, and plans to spend a day a week at the training ground.

Kicking practice at Wigan's training ground in Orrell

Last Friday, he worked individually with Morgan Escare, Powell and Sam Tomkins.

George Williams, who had the role for most of last season, will also get involved once he returns along with the other England internationals. “They’ve all got different styles, they’re different personalities as well,” said Hodgson, who scored 269 points in 38 England appearances.

“I was joking I’d have to bring out my school French with Morgan at some point, but he’s been okay.

“I’m enjoying it, I’m getting to know the lads and give them something to go with.”

Charlie Hodgson has been brought in to improve Wigan's goal-kicking

Hodgson, who hung up his boots 18 months ago, also spends a day a week with Premiership rugby union outfit London Irish.

By his own admission, he is more involved with them because of his wealth of experience in the 15-a-side code, but he is no stranger to league.

“I grew up in Halifax, I played union but every weekend I’d watch rugby league,” he said. “So I know about the history of Wigan and what a successful team they’ve been, and when I was approached, it was a bit amazing that I get that chance to do this, having watched them from afar.”

Goal-kicking has been a thorny issue for the Warriors since Richards departed as a double-winner in 2013.

Matty Smith was not as comfortable, or successful, as his former team-mate and, when he departed a year ago, the tee was up for grabs.

Frenchman Escare started with the cone before suffering a season-ending injury, and Williams took over as the principle kicker.

Morgan Escare lines up a goal

All in all, Wigan converted just 62 per cent of their goal-attempts in Super League – which was the worst strikerate in the competition. Widnes were second-worst with 69 per cent, while at the other end of the spectrum, Hull FC had 88 per cent.

Some called for Wane to ‘sign a goal-kicker’ but he has always been firm with his stance of not recruiting, or fielding, a player solely on kicking ability.

Instead, he brought in Hodgson in the hope his expertise will help sharpen up that area of the game.

The former Sale and Saracens fly-half will also do a little on kicking from hand, though the focus is on improving their goal-ratio.

“The standard has been different (to what I’ve been used to) because they’re not used to doing it all the time,” said Hodgson, who said he practised more at the end of his career than at the start because of the increased emphasis on kicking. “A lot of the guys in union have been kicking a long time.

“Here it’s been more ad hoc and so it is a bit of a culture shift and realising you’ve got to practice a lot if you want to be good at it.

“It’s doing a lot of it – and a lot of it well.”

Which was why Powell and Tomkins were at Orrell on their day off, practising their strikes at the uprights.

And from this week, Hodgson has introduced a competitive element to try and drive up the standards further.

“One thing we want to do is give them some competition in the week, and the loser buys breakfast or something like that,” he said. “Because there does need to be pressure.

“When they do it (in a game), there will be pressure and they’ll be getting stick from the crowd – Sam will be used to that!

“And it’s important they block out what’s going on behind them and focus on the process in front of them, and getting that right.

“I’m only here a day or week, there’s only so much I can do, so it’s about giving them the right information and making sure they know what to look out for, and for them to practise.”

Wane has yet to indicate who will start the 2018 campaign with the goal-kicking responsibility.

Given his transparent ‘best will play’ selection policy, he will probably well wait until the end of January to see who is buying the fewer breakfasts from their in-house competitions!

“My remit is to make sure all of them are capable of doing it, and doing it well when they play,” added Hodgson.

Kicking practice at Wigan's training ground in Orrell