O'Loughlin: We have to brush ourselves off and get on with it
Warriors captain Sean O'Loughlin has warned his team-mates there's no time to waste as the Super 8s phase of the season kicks off.
The England captain is aiming to lead his side to a fourth straight Grand Final appearance, and a first title win since 2013.
But having more of an idea of what to expect after the first Super 8s campaign last season, O’Loughlin says the task ahead will not be easy.
“I think the intensity of the games step-up,” he said.
“I think you go from the back end of the normal season, where not everyone’s points that they gain mean too much to them, but once you’re in that eight every game matters.”
O’Loughlin is confident Warriors are capable of reaching October’s Grand Final, though he does acknowledge his side will have to improve if they are to be in with a shot at fourth Super League title.
And he also admits missing out on the Challenge Cup Final has altered Wigan’s focus.
“The feel around the camp is just narrowing the focus and taking each game as it comes and making sure we try and improve each week,” he explained.
“Then if we do that, we feel like we’ve got a great chance of finishing top and ultimately that gives us a shot at the Grand Final and a chance to play in that.
“So it’s just about getting over this now putting the Cup loss away. It’s done, and we need to crack on and make sure our performances are improving for the rest of the season.”
Improvements will have to come sharply too.
While no questions can be asked of Wigan’s defence, which is second only to Warrington’s so far in 2016, their attack has left many fans frustrated.
And Wakefield, in many ways, arrive at the DW Stadium tonight free of pressure and expectation.
Their place in the Super 8s has confirmed their Super League survival after their Million-Pound Game drama of 2015 – and if we’re being honest it would take the toppling of Leicester City odds for them to break into the play-offs.
That’s exactly why O’Loughlin rightly points out they will be a threat to Warriors’ ambitions tonight.
“They’ve got in the eight and it’s a good achievement for them – and then they’re going to enjoy their rugby now until the end of the season,” he said.
“They’ve got nothing to lose.”
Both sides line-up tonight on the back of Challenge Cup semi-final losses, with Wakefield losing 56-12 to Warrington at Leigh Sports Village last Saturday.
It looks like a third-place play-off instead of a dress rehearsal for Wembley, but O’Loughlin has warned feeling sorry for themselves is the worst thing his Warriors can do – and he sees the seven games leading up the play-offs as the ideal chance to get things right which have been misfiring this year.
“We’re in the eights now so there’s no real time to kind of lull on anything,” he said.
“We’ve just got to brush ourselves off and get on with it and make sure we put in some good performances now before the end of the season.”
During that time, good performances will have to come against the likes of St Helens on August 19,and Wembley favourites Warrington at the HJ Stadium on September 16.
There is also the final Super 8s game at home to Catalans on September 23, which could turn out to be Wigan legend Pat Richards’ last game of rugby league if the Dragons don’t make it to the top four.
“I’m sure the boys would enjoy being involved in his last game but he’s been a legend player and legend bloke,” said O’Loughlin.
“We wish him all the best but it’d be a nice touch if he could finish off over here.”