The 18th Man column: 'If Wigan Warriors could have had one St Helens player, it would be...'

Our 18th Man columnists discuss the derby, form and the Man of Steel frontrunners...

Friday, 20th August 2021, 10:30 am
Updated Friday, 20th August 2021, 10:32 am
Paul Sculthorpe played with Andy Farrell and Terry O'Connor for Great Britain

Which St Helens player would you have loved to see play for Wigan?

Alex Graham: The easy option I’m sure many Wiganers would choose is James Roby, but not me. His career has run almost parallel to Micky McIlorum, and I would never swap Micky’s contribution to WIgan for any hooker in the world.

It’s always hard seeing a Wiganer playing for St Helens and succeeding as it makes you question how they were overlooked or missed out on by their hometown club.

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For me, this is the case with Tommy Makinson. Not only has he gone on to achieve a large amount of success at St Helens but he’s also picked up international honours and a Golden Boot.

He comes across a model professional and good role model to have within the club. Maybe there’s still time left in his career to being him home?!

Sean Lawless: The one area that Wigan have been woefully poor at recruiting for recently is prop, so Alex Walmsley would be the obvious choice for me.

However, I wouldn’t mind Wigan signing a St Helen’s player via Canterbury Bulldogs, in the shape of Luke Thompson!

However, an added bonus would be if they could be a goal kicker also!

Darren Wrudd: I actually had to think long and hard about this one, not really because I had to try and imagine the best of a mediocre bunch, but to get beyond the delicate or dare I say perhaps almost imperceptible bias that I may have towards the plastic scousers.

The question morphed into a variation on a theme which settled on which Saints player did I detest the most as for sure he would be their brightest light. But the list is long and I could not get through it.

So I finally decided to go for Paul Sculthorpe. A general in any side and a proper decent fellow to boot.

Scully had an illustrious career even if Andy Farrell thought he was less than honourable.

So at a time when we did not really need such a player as lets be honest, Faz ruled the waves, Scully would have certainly been a strong addition to the squad.

Jon Lyon: I think we were lucky enough to sign two of their best in Gary Connolly and Andy Platt, both of whom excelled in cherry and white and were among the best we’ve ever had in their respective positions.

As much as we don’t like to admit it, Saints have had some wonderful players over the years.

There are many obvious candidates like James Roby, James Graham and Jamie Lyon but a player I always enjoyed watching was Tommy Martyn.

He played with a freedom that few other players did and was a constant thorn in our side. He formed great partnerships with first Bobbie Goulding and later Sean Long, was a superb support player and could create a try out of nothing for himself or a team mate.

He seemed to be on the pitch purely to entertain and always played with a smile on his face. I would have loved him to have been playing for us rather than against us.

What do Wigan need to do to convince you they could contend for a Grand Final?

Alex Graham: I believe this group of players are far more capable of producing better performances than we’ve seen this year, including those which have resulted in a win.

Even in last Friday’s loss against Hull KR there were brilliant individual plays, but the issue remains individuals play alongside one another. We come across as overly drilled, robotic and stiff.

Our best performance this year has been against Leigh, and although I appreciate Leigh are bottom of the table there was a sense of freedom and release of internal pressure from playing a particular way.

It’s no coincidence that this was performance was after a short turnaround with less emphasis of taking whatever has been drilled into the players in training onto the pitch.

To convince me that we could contend for a Grand Final this year I’d need to see players playing what’s in front in them instead of being too concerned about later tackles. And please, get rid of that 50 per cent high kick in good field position used to win percentages instead of try scoring opportunities!

Sean Lawless: Wigan need a consistent team for the next four or five games, with improving performances and victories.

Towards the end of last season, Wigan gained an identity which coincided with the signing of Brad Singleton who formed a great relationship with Joe Bullock.

That improved pack then created a platform for Wigan to perform, culminating in the win at St Helens and then to a Grand Final.

The injuries for Wigan have not helped in that regard this year but neither has Wigan’s ill-discipline.

An consistent identity in regards to personnel, position and performance is crucial for Wigan to have any hope this season and that hope is very, very slim at the moment.

Darren Wrudd: Consistency, simple as that.

Wigan show some fabulous flair in attack and then back it up with a well organised and almost brutal defensive line only to follow up with conceding soft barge over tries through lack of concentration and more dropped ball than a crown green bowls match.

We have all the tools to complete the season at the final and win it, but look at Saints or Catalans, they may lose the odd game but strive for consistent performances which is where we slip up.

We are not far away, but ill discipline has been a real burden this year too, costing us too many bans and cards from the officials.

Lets be cool, calm and in control of our own game plan and we won’t be far away.

Jon Lyon: It would help if we weren’t always losing after 20 minutes. It is staggering how many times we have been behind early on in matches, it’s too often to not take serious measures to remedy.

I can’t believe the players aren’t focused when they come out onto the pitch so whether they are trying to preserve energy or a mental fatigue is kicking in early I don’t know but we can’t keep giving teams, especially as we near the play offs, huge leads that we may or may not be able to claw back.

We also need to unleash the players in attack.

I can understand perhaps being cautious in our own half and trying to win the territorial battle but even when we do make it into the oppositions twenty we are simply not scoring enough points to be serious Grand Final contenders.

Either players need to change the lines they are running or we need to allow them to throw the ball about more and accept there will be more mistakes.

We can’t keep relying on kicks to the corner to score.

Sam Tomkins, Jordan Abdull and Jonny Lomax make up the top three on the Man of Steel leaderboard - is that a fair reflection?

Alex Graham: I’d certainly say Sam Tomkins’ contribution is a fair reflection but I can’t say I’ve been overly impressed with Abdull and Lomax.

It’s a difficult award to suggest as the season has been so disruptive and lacked in consistency. Personally, I think Tomkins will run away with the award when playoffs approach.

Sean Lawless: The inclusion of Jordan Abdull in the top three performers for Man of Steel this year reflects the feeling I have had over the past few years whereby good players in mid table teams are rewarded greater than excellent players in excellent teams, we saw that last year with Paul McShane.

Having said that, Sam Tomkins is head and shoulders above the rest of the competition this year, he has been exceptional and I expect him to be Man of Steel come October.

Darren Wrudd: I honestly think it should be binned this year.

How can we have players at the top who have played four or five games less than others.

Or have they adopted the percentage system to give advantages in this comp too. The season as a whole I don’t think has much value unless every team pays the same number of games, which we know will not happen, so why not just rename it this year to the favourite player for 2021 and give it to Jake Mamo.

Jon Lyon: I would agree with the first two but for me, when I’ve seen St Helens this season, Jonny Lomax seems well below his form of the last few years.

He seems to be misplacing a lot of passes and dropping a lot of ball, which is unusual for a player of his quality.

If I had to pick a player for the third spot it would be either Daryl Clark, who has been as consistent as ever for Warrington, or our own Jackson Hastings who has been far and away our best player this season.

Jackson seems to be overlooked due to some of Wigan’s poor performances this year rather than being rewarded for his own top notch form.

As long as he steers clear of injury I can’t see anyone toppling Sam Tomkins at the top of the leaderboard and it will be a well deserved reward for a wonderful year.

If Wigan can’t win the Grand Final and Jackson can’t win the award then I hope Catalans and Sam pick up the respective awards, I really can’t handle watching Saints win again!Out