The 18th Man column: 'I'd love to see Liam Marshall at full-back'

Our 18th Man columnists discuss goal-kickers, trading places and derby memories...
Wigan winger Liam MarshallWigan winger Liam Marshall
Wigan winger Liam Marshall

Are there any current Wigan players who you think, ‘I’d love to see him play in a different position’?

Alex Graham: Despite Zak Hardaker and Bevan French spoiling us for options at full-back I wouldn’t mind chucking Liam Marshall in the mix for the one jersey. The full-back position has come a long way from being a reliable last line of defence and safe option under the high ball, it is now one of most signifcant links with regards to attacking play.

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Ex-Wigan full-back Matty Bowen, with a similar stature, arguably revolutionised the position using speed and enthusiasm to prowl behind the attacking line to become involved at quick, unsuspecting periods to cause havoc for defensive lines when he needed to, not to mention being so dangerous in broken play.

Robert Kenyon: I think someone like Dom Manfredi could play multiple positions, I think he could take a good scooting No.9 as he is quick out of acting half and runs with purpose. Mind you, he does that playing wing anyway.

The only other one could be Morgan Smithies at hooker, he has the defensive side of things wrapped up and he’s quite stocky, it may be worth looking at.

Jon Lyon: I always wondered why we never tried Manfredi at full-back. Good under the high ball, tough in defence and excellent bringing the ball back.

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I guess we’re handily stocked now with Bevan and Zak so not really a necessary experiment.

Other than that I could see Bibby or Hankinson in the second row if needed. I presume when everyone is fit (a rarity) that Gildart and Hardaker will be first choice centres, so Chris or Jake could add a little more pace perhaps, though we’d miss Isa’s defence if he was left out, and Farrell is pretty much untouchable.

Darren Wrudd: I have often thought that young Tom Davies, who is now at Catalans, would make a fantastic centre.

The lad has such strength and a side step to trouble any defence along with the out and out speed that a good centre needs. Our back line is looking very rich at the moment and it is going to be difficult for anyone to break into the starting line up, but Davies has a real hunger for the hard work and I think he would go very well with a good wing man like Marshall alongside him.

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Hypothetical: If a £100,000 prize rested on a touchline goal-kick – which player from any era and any club would you choose to kick it?

Alex Graham: No contest – Frano Botica. Often when we speak about ex-players particularly in the early 90s nostalgia can take over. Not in Frano’s case, he was a goal kicking machine. Compared to any kicker in the Super League-era, Botica was slotting them over and breaking records in harsh Northern English winters, mud baths and using 100% leather balls before the Puma was introduced.

The Central Park ground staff must have dreaded post-match pitchwork by having to mend the sand minefield Botica left behind after a Sunday afternoon fixture.

Robert Kenyon: Andy Farrell, the man could kick a goal from anywhere. This was tough, because I remember Frank Botica being a sublime goal kicker, but I was really too young to remember how good he really was. Pat Richards narrowly misses out too.

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Jon Lyon: We’ve had some phenomenal kickers at Wigan in the past. Jim Sullivan’s record will never be surpassed. Botica was ahead of his time, and now most kickers are as accurate as he was. Pat Richards was exceptional, and at other clubs you’ve the likes of Sinfield, even Sneeeeeeeyd (yawn), Daryl Halligan, Hazem El Masri, Johnathan Thurston and Matthew Ridge.

I’m going to stay loyal to Wigan and our skipper supreme. I would put £100,000, and also my house, on Andy Farrell. How many times have we watched him late on in games muttering to himself by the sideline and then banging the kick straight through the middle of the posts?

The classic against Bradford on 27/8/00 was a prime example, Radlinski scoring with seconds to go and everyone celebrating as though we’d won. It was still 19-18 to Bradford and Farrell had the whole stadium praying and heaping pressure on his shoulders.

No problem, goal kicked and we went top, all because Faz can handle that kind of pressure.

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Darren Wrudd: You would never back against Pat Richards kicking a goal from anywhere he was asked. The ultimate professional he never seemed fazed by the atmosphere of big occasions and was the picture of calm in a sea of tension. If I had to stake my money on a kicker then it would have to be him. Difficult decision that, with quality players littering Super League like Frano Botica, Lee Briers and never forget Paul Deacon, who broke our hearts with a touchline conversion from the halfway line at Odsal in the last seconds of a game to take the two points. But the big man Richards would get my trust to step up.

Yesterday marked 10 years since Wigan’s last game at Knowsley Road – what’s your stand-out favourite memory from the venue?

Alex Graham: I still get goosebumps when I think about walking down Knowsley Road, approaching the Eddington End turnstiles and listening to thousands of Wigan fans singing and fired up for the derby.

I can still remember the urgency and weaving in and out between thousands of supporters just to get our usual spec, bang in the middle and at the top of the stand beneath an orange glowing light with a television gantry partially blocking the view. Nobody cared – it was game on. Unsurprisingly it was the fixtures with scrapping opposed to good rugby which I’ll always remember. In particular the 1994 Boxing Day fixture when Adam Fogerty lifted his head from the scrum to butt Neil Cowie. After Henry Paul was sent off and Kelvin Skerrett causing havoc with Sonny Nickle and co we went on to win 25-32.

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Robert Kenyon: It was my favourite away ground, was Knowsley Road, with the roof being so low and it being all standing, it made for a great atmosphere every time.

My stand-out game as the 28-29 win in 2001 when Andy Farrell slotted over a drop goal to win. That was the first derby I went to just with my mates and had a few sherberts at the game for the first time.

Jon Lyon: How to pick only one? Winning the final match at their ground was a very special moment, as you know how much it meant to them to win that one, and they can never have that back.

Winning 38-34 in June 2003 with so many young lads in the team and being massive underdogs was a huge result too, baby-faced Luke Robinson and Kev Brown bagging five tries between them. My favourite game overall was Boxing Day 1994, when Henry Paul was sent off shockingly for combing Steve Prescott’s hair, and we threw away a huge lead after that – only to come back at the death and win a classic.

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My favourite memory overall though is the banter between fans. I’ve stood with Saints-supporting mates in their boys pen in my Wigan shirt and never once felt unsafe. I’ve had many arguments with Saints fans yet always shaken hands after the game. This is what makes our rivalry so great.

Darren Wrudd: So many memories from Knowsley Road, some great – some not so great.

But my most memorable game came in 2010. A drizzly wet day was always going to be close and we had not had much success of late.

So we really needed to step up to the mark and did so with some great defence. Darrell Goulding poached a try early on and Superman Pat Richards converted from the edge. Then it was all a bit tough and scrappy, a proper derby if ever there was. When a fantastic run from Feka Paleaaesina saw him run right over the top of three Saints players to score and give us a good lead.

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Saints came back in the second half but a final conversion by Richards again on the edge put us out at 18-10 victors. I don’t think Jon Wilkin ever recovered from the trampling that Feka gave him and Wigan went on an unbeaten run in regular league games which I seem to remember helped us unbeaten in the next 10 encounters between the two sides.

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