The 18th Man Column...Oliver Gildart will be a loss and hard act to follow
Oliver Gildart jetted out to Australia this week...how much will Wigan miss him, and how much of a splash will he make in the NRL?
Jon Lyon: Sadly Gildart’s last two seasons have been blighted with injury, but on form he has been the best centre in the country over the last few years alongside Mark Percival.
Oli formed a great partnership on the left with Liam Farrell, George Williams and Liam Marshall/Joe Burgess, and this season with so many backs injured he has been our one outlet with real pace.
He will be a huge loss and a tough act to follow for the rumoured, but as yet unconfirmed, signing of Iain Thornley.
How Oli will fare in the NRL is a tough one to answer.
He has great speed, skill and footwork.
But my biggest concern would be his size.
Oli isn’t the biggest of centres, which was never a problem over here, but most centres in the NRL are built like second rowers and he will be targeted by some huge runners.
Hopefully he can stay fit and do Wigan and Super League proud but, if the worst happens and he’s not a huge success over there, I’d be delighted to see him back in cherry and white in a year or two.
Robert Kenyon: Wigan will miss him because he’s a good centre.
Although last year we didn’t see much of him, he is on his day a top Super League centre.
I watch the NRL religiously and, despite me being a fan of Gildart, I can’t see him making an impact there because of his size and time out he’s spent this last year.
Darren Wrudd: I think Wigan have missed Oliver Gildart since he signed the Wests contract at the beginning of the year.
His form never recovered and he was accused of not really committing to the team as his heart was elsewhere. If we had seen the Oli Gildart of previous years, we may well have done much better in 2021.
And so I think we missed him already and 2022 will be better for his departure both for him and the club.
If, however, he thinks that he will do well down under with that approach, he will be mistaken, and his team mate Jackson Hastings will no doubt set him straight. It’s a shame, I liked Gildart, but the way he finished the year by not even bothering to turn up at the end of season soiree to thank his sponsors has blotted his copybook for me.
And I certainly can’t see the club throwing out the welcome mat if he doesn’t do well Down Under and comes back to Super League.
Ste Ford: I’m a fan of Gildart but, injuries aside, he’s been pretty disappointing over the last couple of years.
In his defence, the vast majority of the squad played poorly last season therefore, it’s difficult for individuals to shine in that type of environment.
I suspect most fans expect Gildart to fail in Australia due primarily to his size.
However, I have a sneaking feeing he will surprise quite a few people – but that is on the assumption he avoids any further injuries to his shoulder.
Jackson Hastings will also be at Wests Tigers next year...where does he stand in the pantheon of Australian players at Wigan?
Jon Lyon: Jackson has been fantastic for Wigan, Salford and Super League.
It’s clear how much he has grown as a person and as a player he never gave less than 100 per cent on and off the pitch.
His interaction with fans was lovely to see and he will have inspired many a youngster to take up the game.
It’s very hard to rank players from different generations. I’ve been lucky enough to watch the likes of Brett Kenny, John Ferguson, Ian Roberts, Greg Dowling, Steve Ella and Steve Renouf in a Wigan shirt, and those are some legendary players of the sport.
While Jackson isn’t quite the same level as Brett Kenny, that shouldn’t understate the effect he had on our club. These have been a rough two years on and off the pitch, and Jackson has led the way for Wigan.
More often than not he has been our best player, and his contribution will be long remembered.
I wish him all the best in the NRL, he deserves every success.
Robert Kenyon: Hastings stands in the ‘did well’ category of overseas players.
Without Covid and that, his position may be higher with fans seeing him in the flesh, but he did well in his time here.
I never really thought he bought into the club as much as he did Salford.
So when you compare him with the likes of Pat Richards, Trent Barrett, Ryan Hoffman, David Furner and even Adrian Lam...I’d put those types of players above him.
Did well, though, and I think he’d have enjoyed his time here more had it not been for covid stopping fans attending matches last year.
Darren Wrudd: Hastings comes under the heading of ‘wish I had seen more of him’.
Circumstances plotted against him right from the off, with both Covid and several key injuries to team-mates meaning we all too often saw him play out of position.
I cannot really give him a rating on what we saw as it would be unfair.
Showing individual moments of brilliance while trying to manage the team too, he carried way too much on his shoulders to be able to shine as brightly as we know he can. However, I can rate him as a personality.
Rarely do we see a sportsman, even in our great game, with such honesty and dedication toward the fans and the town.
That Salford fans still love him says it all, and I am really pleased I had the chance to see him at our club, showing such a wonderful example of how to behave as a real role model for our fans.
So he is certainly a top five as far as setting a good example and shows just how far the lad has come on his personal journey.
I wish him absolutely the best success in his new career back home.
Ste Ford: I don’t think we saw the best of Hastings at Wigan due to the coach and the general awful team displays particularly in his second season.
Having said that I think he will be quickly forgotten by the fans, as he never seemed to form a relationship with us and there is no way he can be compared to Kenny, Ella, Miles, Carmont, Furner, Fletcher or Finch.
Rugby league has broken new ground by launching a professional club in Cornwall. Good idea or bad idea?
Jon Lyon: I think it’s a fantastic idea.
If we are serious about expanding our sport we need to take chances and try something new.
We can complain about ideas like this all we want but if we keep rugby league in t’north it will eventually die a death. Attendances are plummeting, and doing nothing is no longer an option.
If we can consider a team in Canada and a second team in France, we can certainly accommodate a team in Cornwall.
It’s only one more long trip a season for most teams, and it’ll make a wonderful weekend away for fans.
If owner Eric Perez is true to his word then the team will be made up predominantly of local players, which will take time.
But it will give Cornish fans someone to connect with and root for.
Only time will tell if it’s a success, but it’s certainly worth the risk.
Robert Kenyon: Bad idea. You could start a team called Beijing Buccaneers, New Delhi Devils or River Plate Raiders, and train in Lancashire and be made up of English and Australians, and it will ultimately fail.
It’s just a fancy sounding name.
If someone wants to expand or put money into rugby league then, in my opinion, as a sport we need to strengthen in our heartlands, or where progress has already been made.
So for me, I’d be looking at Cumbria, South Wales or even London with the focus on bringing in young local players.
Mark my words, in five years’ time Cornwall will be gone, and there will be another fad team on everyone’s lips. Better for the owners of that team to buy London Skolars and invest there.
Darren Wrudd: Hemel, when bought out and shipped over to Ottowa was a step too far for me.
A big step towards ruining our game by pushing too hard in the wrong direction.
That they at least left the amateur Hemel sides to continue was a great relief for the community game and they are thriving.
However, with all the scandal surrounding the way that Toronto behaved as soon as the going got tough, I am not sure it is wise to let Ottowa play in our leagues, for sooner or later they will no doubt want to ship back home and where will that leave the staff and organisation they leave behind in their wake?
Not to mention the extra expense to our clubs both now and in future.
If, however, they commit to being based here indefinitely, then it will add another region to our sport.
And although the trip may be arduous, I can see many away fans making a weekend of it.
So I suppose the jury is out for the moment.
But I have a long closed season to sit in my comfy chair with a glass of something to ponder the outcome.
Hope you all winter well, and roll on summer rugby.
Ste Ford: We need to open up new areas for development. But Cornwall is a bastion for rugby union.
So unless there are significant resources available to even try to make this work, it is a bad idea.