Talking RL: Nuuausala is a different type of signing for Wane

There were fans at Wigan's training ground on Tuesday to meet Frank-Paul Nuuausala.

Thursday, 14th July 2016, 10:09 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 5:04 pm
Frank-Paul Nuuausala signs autographs at Wigan's training ground

His arrival seems to have captured the imagination more than recent signings, and it’s easy to see why.

First, he’s joined mid-season. With most new signings, there is a long time-frame over pre-season between their arrival and their debut.

Nuuausala touched down on Monday and may play tomorrow.

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Secondly, he’s good. He’s 29, was good enough to force his way into a Sydney Roosters pack featuring Sonny Bill Williams and Jared Waerea-Hargraves, and has played for New Zealand.

But thirdly, he’s a different type of signing for Wigan.

Many of Shaun Wane’s previous captures have fallen into the ‘project’ category.

Dan Sarginson, Ben Flower, Anthony Gelling, John Bateman. Even Taulima Tautai.

Players picked from smaller, poorer-performing clubs who he feels he can develop.

Sure, there have been some established players brought in. But most of them have played for Wigan before - Joel Tomkins, Sam Tomkins, Lee Mossop, next Joe Burgess and Thomas Leuluai.

And a returning player rarely sparks the same excitement as a new player, simply because fans know what to expect.

The only big-name ‘new’ signing of recent years was Matty Bowen, but even his arrival was tapered by the knowledge he was coming in to replace a better player, in Tomkins.

Nuuausala’s different.

Wigan didn’t even ‘need’ a prop, yet they’ve recruited him anyway to add some aggression, energy and quality to an already formidable pack.

And the cherry on the cake?

He’s got a great nickname – the Wrecking Ball – something which has been missing from the Warriors side for far too long.

I’m already looking forward to the Challenge Cup semi-final against Hull FC, when the Wrecking Ball takes on Frank The Tank. Happy days.

Sean O’Loughlin’s one-game ban prompted fierce – and polarising – debate.

The Wigan and England skipper appeared at the disciplinary with assistant coach John Winder (Shaun Wane usually attends, but it was his 30th wedding anniversary - and he feared there wouldn’t be a 31st if he spent the evening at Red Hall!) and they had the punishment reduced to one-game.

Many people agree it was a ‘reckless’ challenge, so the charge seems fair. And if you want to debate whether it deserved a one or three-match ban, or longer, go ahead.

My view? Two games. You may agree or disagree, you may think he should have been let-off and you may think he deserves four games, and that’s fine. That’s sport.

But some of the conspiracy theories I’ve seen on social media have been laughable!

For a start, it’s not unheard of for a Grade C offence to result in a one-match ban – it happened only last month to Warrington’s Ryan Atkins. The sentencing guidelines which accompany charges are just that – guidelines.

And this notion that O’Loughlin was dealt with leniently because he’s a Wigan player is laughable. It wasn’t too long ago the RFL handed out a six-month ban to a Wigan player!

The fact is O’Loughlin has played more than 350 games and never been in trouble. Is the RFL right to reward track records? Absolutely. That’s how the law works.

As Sky’s Rod Studd pointed out on Twitter, when Justin Carney pleaded guilty to his fifth dangerous throw offence, his ban was two games – the same as when he pleaded guilty to his first. Which seems ludicrous – surely repeat offenders should be hit more severely, each time.

And is the RFL right to consider the on-field punishment? Absolutely – his team played half-a-match with 12 men and nearly lost! Had it been put ‘on report’, and O’Loughlin had stayed on the pitch, they would surely have won more comfortably.

Credit to Lewis Tierney.

By staying at Wigan he knows he has to fight for a first-team spot – on the surface, as it stands, he doesn’t have a ‘starting’ place in next year’s side.

He could have gone elsewhere and been all-but guaranteed a place, but he’s decided to stay.

I admire how he has backed himself.

And as he showed on Friday, he’s got much more to his game than self-belief - what a phenomenal finish to win the game.

Who would have thought it - Wigan at Leeds, top against bottom.

And the fact the Warriors are in the No.1 spot with a points difference of just 36 shows how many close scrapes they’ve had this year!

As for Leeds, they may just be the best-equipped side ever to be at the bottom spot at this stage of the year.

The treble-winners have won three of their last four games and have an NRL recruit making his home debut.

Wigan are high on confidence but low on numbers.

The table suggests this game has taken on a new complexion, but I’m expecting a typical, tough tussle.