Marshall braced for a fierce wing battle
Last year Liam Marshall finished second on the Super League try-scoring charts '“ but he knows he faces a scrap for a place in the Wigan team.
The winger enjoyed a dazzling breakthrough season, scoring 24 tries in all competitions, lighting up the Magic Weekend with a hat-trick and playing in a Challenge Cup Final at Wembley.
And his 21 in the league saw him finish just second to Castleford’s try-scoring machine Greg Eden.
Not a bad return for a player who was playing part-time at Swinton the previous year.
But there are no risks of the softly-spoken player getting ahead of himself.
“Last season was a bit of a whirlwind for me,” said Marshall. “In the grand scheme of things, it’s still only my second year.”
Joe Burgess’ hip injury will give Marshall an early chance against Salford this Friday, but the former will be back the week later.
And with Tom Davies, another academy-graduate who broke through last year, in the squad and Dom Manfredi eyeing a return to action in May, the competition is intense.
With Shaun Wane unlikely to carry a winger on the bench, it’s a simple sum for trainee-accountant Marshall to ponder: four into two doesn’t go.
“All four of us could be in the form of our lives but at the end of the day, he’s only going to pick two players for the spots,” said Marshall.
“We’ve got some quality on the wing, and there’ll be a lot of competition.
“Hopefully I’ll get some game time soon but if not, I’ll not be too worried about it. It’s about making sure you’re ready for when you’re called on.
“Trying to be in form when you’ve not played for a few weeks is hard, you’ve just got to do what you can in training and be mentally ready.
“It’s tough, but that’s the career we’re in.”
Marshall has worked hard on his carries in the off-season.
Many of his spectacular finishes – touching the ball down while diving over the touchline – are down to instinct, he says.
“We do work on reaction, but a lot of the time it’s just down to outside backs being athletic people,” he said. “They can jump and get their bodies into those positions.
“You may not touch the ball for 20 minutes and then you get a bit of space and you have to nail it, and you see that with wingers across the league.”
As well as his 24 touchdowns last season, Marshall also hit 10 goals including five against his old club Swinton in the Challenge Cup.
What made the tally even more impressive was he had not kicked – at any level – before being given the tee, having impressed during a training session!
But the kicking role was out of necessity, during a deep injury crisis, and he has no plans to take up the role in 2018.
The club’s kickers have been working with expect Charlie Hodgson during the off-season, but Marshall has not joined Sam Tomkins, Sam Powell, Morgan Escare and Jake Shorrocks in the sessions.
“Last year, it was a case of anyone who put their hand up, and it was me!” he smiled.
“My short kicking career is over. There are a lot better kickers than me – if I’ve got the tee this year, you know something has gone wrong!”