The 18th Man column: Has Adrian Lam received enough credit for Wigan Warriors' start?

Wigan Warriors fans discuss Adrian Lam, Joe Bullock's exit and the trip to Catalans...

Thursday, 27th May 2021, 12:25 pm
Adrian Lam

Wigan have made their best ever start to a Super League season - has Adrian Lam received enough credit?

Sean Lawless: I think the shine of the best ever start to a Super League season has been impacted by the cup exit.

If we hadn’t yet played in the cup or had beaten Hull, the mood would be a lot more positive around Wigan and Adrian Lam.

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What I do think Lam deserves a lot of credit for, is the team that he has managed to get seven wins from seven games with.

A back line missing squad numbers 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 for a large majority of the first games is pretty special.

Compare this start to the start with similar injuries back in 2019 and that tells you how much credit Lam deserves.

Jon Lyon: Well, Lammy won the Super League Coach of the Month award for April so he’s had some recognition externally.

It seems though, judging by social media comments, he’s had very little credit from Wigan fans.

When we win it’s all “Hardaker’s on fire” and “Hastings is a beast”, which are both true, but as soon as we aren’t thrashing teams with ease then Twitter would have you believe he’s the worst coach in the league.

No team has a God-given right to win, especially with ease, and as we’ve seen, most teams can beat each other, so with the likes of Marshall, Manfredi, Gildart, French and Leuluai all missing substantial game time and having to play players out of position, the fact we’re the only team left with a 100 per cent record is incredible.

Grinding out wins early is a great sign.

No team can play at top form all year so while we’re still finding combinations and bringing players back, to have the fitness and will power to keep winning is not to be sniffed at.

Let’s give Lammy the support he deserves.

Ste Ford: I am not a Lam fan. He promises great flowing rugby but after over two seasons we are still waiting.

Four of the seven wins were against three teams in the bottom four.

If we had played Saints, Catalan or Warrington then our results I think would be very different.

Darren Wrudd: Absolutely not. The pundits on Sky or the BBC are so terrified of saying anything good about a Wigan side or coach, I don’t expect them to give any praise at all.

You listen to the likes of Barry McDermott who fawns over Leeds every move, or Brian Carney who simply adores his Warrington, but who shouts out for Wigan?

Adrian Lam has put his own mark on this squad and has instilled a steely edge to fight for 80 minutes against the odds and grind out a game if needs be.

Not flash, granted, but it’s a tough game and he has coached seven wins from seven games.

The only club to do it this year.

He remains dignified and calm under interview and is a credit to our club and the sport in general.

About time someone stood up and said so.

Andy Grundy: Tough question this as the team are winning yet not really performing consistently well for the duration of the 80 minutes.

I’ll say this, as a coach Adrian Lam will undoubtedly be focusing in on improving certain aspects of his team’s performances, with better consistency and fluidly collectively as team most certainly required, rather than being overly dependent on certain individuals.

Yet let’s face it, coaches at elite level are often judged on their ability to secure the win and that’s exactly what Lammy is doing, turning out a winning team each and every week.

Games can be scrappy but if you come away with wining points in the bag, who can really grumble?

Yes, better performances with a win are of course the aim, but one must also keep in mind the injuries and loss of players he’s also had to contend with, all credit to him I say!

Alex Graham: It would depend on the objectives set for Adrian Lam as head coach for Wigan.

From a results point of view, the table shows a 100 per cent record and we’ve done well to show grit with individual efforts to grind out winning performances.

Although it could be argued that a club with Wigan’s resource and investment would be expected to win the fixtures to date, it still shows relatively high standards and consistency to remain top of the league.

However, it can’t be argued that most wins this season have been ugly, often error-strewn and nowhere near meeting the potential of the team’s capabilities regardless of the results.

Let’s not forget that Ian Lenagan once made a point of Wane’s trophy winning results-based brand of rugby being enough for the club and that Lam was brought in to change that.

The compromise for a less entertaining brand of rugby is trophies and with Lam, now in his third year, losing out on his fifth attempt at winning silverware, patience is starting to wear thin for me.

It’s a long way off the play-offs with no Challenge Cup to look forward to, therefore Wigan fans will expect performances they’re capable of producing.

I don’t think that’s too much of an ask.

Disappointed to see Joe Bullock leave for Warrington?

Sean Lawless: Bullock leaving Wigan for Warrington feels like it must be part of a bigger picture; even with some recruits I would expect him would have had a part to play for Wigan in 2022 and beyond.

I can only hope that Wigan have started a major recruitment process for front rowers in 2022 already and that’s why the fight to retain

Bullock has seemingly been lost.

I like Joe Bullock but I always feel that Lam has seen something in his game, perhaps in training that we haven’t.

I don’t think he has been a trusted member of the pack for Lam, which has resulted in shorter spells on the pitch.

Jon Lyon: Very disappointed. It seems a strange decision.

Joe has always looked good when I’ve seen him and makes a good impact either starting or off the bench.

I don’t know if we need to make cap room as presumably some of the younger lads will need their contracts improving, but I feel Bullock has done more than enough to stick around and fight for his spot.

As always though we have to trust the club, they usually get the recruitment spot on so we’ll see who might be incoming…

Ste Ford: Bullock I think has flattered to deceive.

He has size and pace but his defence and I think suspect fitness means he will never become a first-class prop until he addresses these major flaws.

He seems a decent guy so I wish him all the best in the future, and hope we sign someone to replace who has a proven and consistent track record.

Darren Wrudd: I am somewhat surprised to be honest that Joe Bullock is moving on. He does seem to fit in the squad quite well here at Wigan and I like the impact he has.

I don’t know the exact figures but he does not seem to do big minutes and these days that would be a bonus for any front row forward.

I can only think that Warrington have forgotten how to train up high quality forwards and so need to poach from other squads.

I wish Joe the very best of luck with the Wire, it might be their year next year – but I doubt it.

Andy Grundy: Got to say he’s been good since signing for the club, he’s a steady front rower who plays consistently well when he takes to the field.

On a slightly different note, it’s also been nice to see a player coming through from the Blackpool area, a player who takes a vested interest in really assisting in growing the game in and around the town and being a role model for aspiring youngsters.

That to one side, players come and go and although sad to see him leave, and may I add, I do think he will be a good signing for Warrington, but I also personally think it’s time the club start to look for new blood in the front row position.

For me, I want Wigan to secure a prop who offers a little more than what we are seeing at the moment. I mean this with the utmost respect, as we do have some quality players.

But I want to see a prop at the club who is a real character, with fire in his belly, who is big and mobile, who makes massive barnstorming runs, who is tough and strong and someone who can mix it with the best and basically get you on the edge of your seat.

I really don’t think Wigan have had a prop like this for some time.

Controversial comments maybe, but as I say, this is my personal opinion and if it was down to me, I would be on the hunt for one or two.

Alex Graham: On one hand I’m disappointed as, based on the limited minutes we’ve seen him play, he’s shown bags of potential and, after earning a starting shirt last year, it felt as though he would kick on this year.

On the other hand, his place on the bench has often seemed wasted due to little game time he gets, and it’s pointless retaining a player which the club doesn’t value enough to play more than a handful of minutes.

Personally I can’t see what he’s done wrong to play so little, but I can’t see what goes on at training, therefore I can only put reasoning down to off-field application.

Time will tell when he arrives at Warrington, as this one certainly has potential to bite us on the backside.

Wigan head to Catalans on Saturday... predictions?

Sean Lawless: Wigan’s performances in Perpignan in the past few years have been incredible, even when you expect a close encounter – last season being the perfect example of that.

After Catalans beating St Helens on Saturday, I would expect them to back that up and give Wigan a really tough game this weekend.

With French expected to be out for a while with a hamstring issue, I do think Wigan look more settled with Hardaker at fullback at the moment, so that may help them.

However, I do think Wigan’s unbeaten start to the Super League season may come to an end in Perpignan, unfortunately.

Jon Lyon: It’s always hard to say with Catalans.

They were very impressive when beating Saints and their huge forwards will be a real challenge for our smaller pack.

Mourgue looked exciting at fullback in Tomkins’ absence and McMeeken looks to be finding the form he should have had for years for someone with his size, strength and speed.

That said, it is Catalans.

They have a habit of being world class one week and ordinary the next.

The sad news of Bevan French’s hamstring injury means we lose one star, but should see Zak return to his best position that he really deserves to be in this year with his form so far.

If Hastings can wind up James Maloney he can be put off his game, and if Maloney isn’t on form then Catalans usually struggle for position. As always I have to back the cherry and whites (can I call them that this year?) so I’m going for a 22-14 win with Bibby keeping his good form up with a hat-trick.

Ste Ford: Saturday I think will be a reality check for some supporters and in particular for Lam.

A big Catalans pack will steamroller us, and I won’t be surprised if we lost by 20-plus points.

The last two games we have been awful and have played like strangers, rather a team training since pre-season with a first class set-up and probably the best facilities in the game.

I hope they make me eat my words, but I just can’t see it with a lightweight pack and a coach seemingly devoid of any tactics and baffling team selections.

Darren Wrudd: I can see the weather suiting us better down there in Perpignan. We have some silky skills in the highest quality of players here at Wigan and these are the games when a good mix of biff with a glittering backline can make all the difference.

I am really looking forward to seeing the battle of the full-backs. Tomkins v Hardaker.

I know Sam was crafted through our system, but Zak has really committed to Wigan and I think is the far better player of the two.

Take away Tomkins’ bandy legs side step and just hit him – and his game is in bits.

Zak, however, has different facets to his game and can adapt to broken play in many ways.

This I think will form the bedrock of the win, a platform on which to build field position and I can see us going eight from eight.

Andy Grundy: Always a tough game away, sun shining or not, and this weekend’s game will be no exception, especially with Catalans coming into the game after their 20-16 win against St Helens and siting third in the league with only one loss from seven.

And, after our last game, it’s imperative to try and steady the ship early on and to put ourselves in a position where it is not a dogfight at the end for who takes the win.

Catalans will most certainly have done their homework and, for me, I think this game will be another close one. I actually have a feeling it could be our first loss, yet I hope I’m wrong!

Alex Graham: I’m not sure if any of our performances to date will be good enough to beat a Catalans playing at 75 per cent-plus at home.

Despite having strong second halves we’ve always started poorly, and it’s taken too long to get into certain games.

With travel to the South of France, change of climate and different surroundings, we must prepare well and start strongly.

If we do this, we have shown this year we can remain in games and grind wins out without even having to play really well.

However, a slow start in France and the game can easily run away from you, and it’s quite easily to get beaten

convincingly regardless of form. It’ll be good to see Hardaker back in a key position and hope he can influence the team to a win.