The 18h Man talk about Wigan Warriors' chances of mounting a Grand Final challenge

Wigan Warriors fans give their views on their team's chances of reaching the Super League Grand Final.

Thursday, 29th July 2021, 12:53 pm
Updated Thursday, 29th July 2021, 12:54 pm
Wigan Warriors fans (Photo: Bernard Platt)

With big players coming back into the fold over the next few weeks, how confident are you that Wigan can mount a serious challenge for the Grand Final?

Sean Lawless: Building momentum, with players returning ensures that there may just a be an exciting end to the season for Wigan in the play offs.

It’s looking likely that we will finish lower down in the playoff group, so an all away play off campaign is an exciting challenge and prompts some good memories for THAT win at Bradford and THAT drop goal at Leeds by Danny Tickle (as well as lots of bad memories).

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However, Wigan are not serious challengers at this moment in time, they are far from it.

Injuries and a drop in form for the likes of St Helens and Catalans could give Wigan an opportunity to bounce but, at this moment in time, Wigan are there to make up the numbers in the play offs, no more, no less.

Robert Kenyon: If we have a full squad, I still think we lack fluidity and something isn’t clicking.

We have champion players in the team, especially the likes of Jackson Hastings, Liam Farrell, John Bateman and Zak Hardaker, and also we will get to see what Jai Field can do so maybe. Let’s see how we play over the next three or four weeks.

Ste Ford: It’s a funny old season with currently more games being cancelled/postponed than actually being played, so it’s difficult to assess the form of most teams. I think that Saints, Catalan and Wire are certainties for the playoffs with Hull, Leeds, Hull KR and ourselves fighting for the other spot.

Even with a few players back our Achilles heel of a poorest of props will prevent us becoming a serious challenger and we will be there to make up the numbers.

Jon Lyon: I think right now it’s a bit of a stretch to say we’re genuine Grand Final contenders.

Our attack isn’t flowing as well as it should and for every player coming back there’s still the possibility of more injuries to come.

That said, we have a habit of building over the last few seasons and peaking at the right time.

If we can get some consistency to our line up, and hopefully get Hastings back in the halves, then our attack should improve dramatically.

The addition of KPP and Joe Shorrocks to the pack will allow us to rest players and put pressure on all forwards to perform.

If we can just sort out our slow starts then anything is possible.

I’d put us third favourites at the moment behind Saints and Catalans but, with some momentum and a bit of luck, who knows what might happen.

Darren Wrudd: If we got a full squad out there, I can’t see us losing many at all.

But with the luck we have had with injuries and the random nature of the match review panel, not sure we can count on any players returns until we see them actually run out.

We simply must have a first choice full back in place to mount any chance of a fight through the play off system. Jackson Hastings is doing a brilliant job, but his lack of presence in the halves has cost us in attack.

Set after set in opponents’ 10-metre zone without troubling the scoreboard says it all over the last few weeks. Get Zak back, things can change very quickly and we could really mount a challenge.

However, if Saints and Catalans keep having weeks off, resting their squads over dubious Covid calls, they will be fresh as a daisy and raring to go, not really a level playing field but we are used to that at Wigan.

What did you make of the unrestricted crowd of 5,555 at the Wakefield game? Can it be attributed to the ongoing Covid situation or does it go deeper?

Sean Lawless: Looking around the stadium on Friday was sobering, knowing that a large percentage of season ticket holders had opted to not attend, let alone the fact this was the first time that non-season ticket holders had been given decent notice of tickets being available.

There are too many variables in the equation as to work out the exact reason for the poor attendance, but the biggest ones have to be Covid, people will still be nervous about attending large events.

However, there is no getting away from the fact the performances have not helped.

A free-flowing, attacking team that looked likely to compete for honours may get more people in a stadium.

Robert Kenyon: I mentioned in the last 18th Man column, if the club doesn’t lead and get on the front foot to look after fan’s health and well-being then many will vote with their feet as they have done.

It wouldn’t be a bad idea separating the fans between all four stands, having no away fans, different times for fans attending and leaving as they do with away fans in the Champions League, just holding them back 20 minsutes or so.

The club can go out and make it a Covid secure stadium to put the minds of fans at rest.

Ste Ford: It wasn’t particularly surprising as poor form, lack of entertainment from a dour side, an aging support base and the game in general seemingly in a stupor that it seems incapable of shaking off.

I’ve been a fan for over 50 years and the only other time that I can recall where I couldn’t see a future for the game was in the late 70’s to early 80’s.

Uncle Mo and Co managed to turn the club around, and I would argue also drag the sport from the abyss, but I am not sure if Ian Lenagan has the energy or resources to do the same for us now.

I think the single biggest issue in the game is that the pool of available talent is diminishing, which means that more and more mediocre players and coaches are involved in the game bringing down the quality of the output. I am not sure if there is anyone in the game capable of turning things around.

Covid has brought all the issues within game home to roost I just hope the game can regenerate itself in the future otherwise I foresee clubs folding and quite possibly the game going back to a semi-professional sport.

Jon Lyon: The numbers are very poor, no doubt about it. Covid will certainly play its part with some people feeling too vulnerable to attend and others unsure about protocols and the possible effects on other family members.

Every fan has to make their own mind up what they’re happy with but ultimately, as with any team, the club is run based on a certain level of income, and if we don’t bring in enough fans then there will have to be cost cutting.

Perhaps the inconsistency in performances has had an effect but I believe if you can, then you should support the club no matter what. We’ve played a lot of games with half a team this year and played three games in a week against opponents who have played only once in four weeks, so the inconsistency is to be expected.

It would be great if we could play fantastic flowing rugby every week and win 95 per cent of all games but that’s not realistic.

Let’s support the boys through the good times and the bad, that’s all part of being a fan.

Darren Wrudd: I think there are two issues at play here.

The first is the ridiculous situation with the pitch needing a rest.

Absolute rubbish. If the ground staff are not good enough to prepare the pitch through summer for a game every other week, then it’s time for new ground staff.

It is embarrassing to be held out of the ground for the mid-summer seven or eight weeks for this reason and fans are getting tired of it and finding other things to do with their weekends instead. Add to that the lack of Covid security in the ground.

Many people are rightly nervous and lack the confidence to return while others show no compassion in not even wearing masks on the concourse.

The club’s message was please wear a mask to protect everyone, yet the steward on the turnstiles was telling everyone wearing one that there was no need at all.

Perhaps take a leaf out of Featherstone’s book and have one stand with full Covid protocols, mandatory mask wearing and see if that brings some more fans back with some confidence in their own safety.

I would certainly choose that stand over the others.

Do you understand and agree with the decision taken by Australia and New Zealand to pull out of the World Cup? And can it go ahead without them?

Sean Lawless: The reasoning for Australia and New Zealand to pull out of the World Cup is done in pure self interest of the NRL.

We have always known that the Australians see their competition and State of Origin as the pinnacle of the game, rather than the international game and ultimately, this feeds into the demise of the sport.

I hope the World Cup can go ahead without Australia and New Zealand, to show that they cannot hijack the decision making on the world game; we just need more players from the NRL to say that they are willing to play.

Robert Kenyon: The players should have been consulted as a lot of them have come out and declared they would have played. As long as they remain in a bio secure bubble whilst over here and quarantine before they go back to Australia and New Zealand then I don’t see why they couldn’t come over. However if it was me, I’d have looked at having the World Cup in New Zealand in Auckland and Wellington, maybe some of the smaller cities too.

If Australia and New Zealand don’t send teams it would be a hollow victory for whoever won the World Cup.

Ste Ford: Typical of the Aussies to not think of the sport as a whole but to only consider themselves.

What annoys me the most on their decision is that the players themselves wanted to partake in the competition but senior management have seemingly ignored this and basically thrown the British Rugby League under the bus.

My initial response was to say carry on regardless, however, on reflection we cannot possibly hold the competition without the top two countries in the world there. Sponsors support permitting, the competition should be postponed until 2022.

Jon Lyon: Obviously there are reasons you can understand, but there are many more that don’t make much sense.

The timing of their announcement was poor and the fact the World Cup is so far away and so many things could change is another. While Covid cases were rocketing last week the numbers have dropped considerably this week.

It’s such a tough decision what to do.

Postponing seems more sensible but would then vie with the football World Cup, albeit at different times of the day.

There is also no guarantee how things will be in 12 months.

We could go ahead this year with teams made up from Aussies and Kiwis in this country but we all know it won’t be the same and a lot of people won’t go to watch the matches.

Half empty stadiums won’t help expand our sport so I’m not sure ultimately we have much choice but to wait 12 months.

Hopefully the players down under can force the hand of the NRL to change their mind.

Darren Wrudd: The World Cup is obviously not the pinnacle of the antipodeans Rugby League schedule. They have already had their Origin series which is marketed so professionally and played to such high standards, I suppose I do understand their stance in that respect.

However, to pull out of a competition without consulting the players, staff and coaches involved is typically high handed of the Aussie ruling body.

They have been given all the assurances requested and required to show our complete commitment to Covid security and yet they still hide in the back rooms sending statements out that they can’t play out this week, like a bunch of over protective parents.

The World Cup is there for teams of the world to compete and if they are too frightened to come and have a go, sod em.

With careful planning we can have a meaningful competition and then, as Garry Schofield suggested, ban Australia and New Zealand from the next one or two tournaments.