The 18th Man column...Which Super League teams have failed to live up to expectations this season?
Wigan Warriors fans give their opinions on the Super League teams that have not reached the standards expected of them this season.
Which team has failed to live up to expectations the most this year?
Jon Lyon: If you look at the pre-season hype it would have to be Huddersfield. They made some decent signings in Joe Greenwood, Ricky Leutele and Josh Jones amongst others and have some talented young players already.
The surprise decision of highly rated Ian Watson to u-turn on an agreement to stay at Salford looked a huge coup for the Giants but expected results haven’t followed.
Eight wins in 23 games is a poor return for a club no doubt targeting at least a play off place.
It’s hard to say where the fault lies.
Was Watson just more suited to his own players at Salford or are Huddersfield’s players not as good as most thought they could be?
A good start next year is vital or Ian Watson could well be fighting for his job by Easter. If he does leave it would be interesting to see who would pick him up now his reputation has taken a hit.
Ste Ford: I suppose the obvious answer would be Wigan but I’m not entirely surprised as our squad is totally out of balance and we have three props that we rarely if ever use in Clubb, Bullock and Clark.
At the start of the season I had Huddersfield as a top four contender.
How wrong could I be!
They have been very inconsistent, losing a lot of games that on paper I expected a Huddersfield win.
Maybe the new coach’s philosophy needs more time to settle.
Andy Grundy: Personally, I think the table stands as I would have roughly predicted at the start of the season, in particular, at the top of the table.
Huddersfield under Ian Watson could have potentially finished a little higher, especially when they have put in some performances such as the recent win against top of the table Catalans Dragons.
And, Leeds and Castleford have only won roughly about half of their games.
Therefore, many could argue they too have possibly underperformed in the league.
Yet let’s remember that Castleford, who have come under their own fan’s scrutiny of late, due to the amount of players departing the club at the end of this season, managed to claim a spot in this year’s Challenge Cup final, but consistency in the league has been lacking somewhat. And, Leeds Rhinos who have been squad building in previous seasons according to numerous interviews given by coaching and back-room staff are now seeing fans becoming increasingly vocal about the necessity to replace their current head coach, Richard Agar.
There are one or two other clubs that fans would claim have been off the mark but, as I say, no real major surprises for me personally.
Willie Isa has served his ban. If you were picking Wigan’s full-strength side right now from the fit players, where would you play Isa - and who would miss out?
Jon Lyon: At present I would be starting Isa on the bench. Morgan Smithies has been in good form and deserves to keep his place, and Bateman and Farrell are a shoo-in.
Isa off the bench would offer cover for the back row and at centre if needed.
Isa has been vital to the Wigan side and offers great defensive protection to whichever half back is on his side of the pitch.
After the last few performances however he does need to play with controlled aggression.
The days of (most) fans cheering on thuggery are gone and the penalties conceded are damaging to our team, not to mention the time spent in the sin bin.
Isa will always make the match day 17 if he’s fit, but the team comes first and if his discipline doesn’t improve then he should be left out, or we won’t stand a chance in the play offs.
Ste Ford: I’d put him back at centre and move Bibby to the wing which would mean Halsall missing out.
If Smithies is unfit I’d put Isa into the pack.
In a poor season performance wise, Isa has been one of the few guys who has performed relatively well on a consistent basis, albeit on his last appearance he saw the old red mist too much.
Andy Grundy: Firstly, Isa is a grafter and a fans favourite, but a little hot headed at times, yet let’s face it Rugby League is a physical game, and you are always going to get heated situations and unsavoury actions that lead to unwanted player downtime from games.
As we all know, he gets through a lot of work both in defence and in attack, and in a recent interview Adrian Lam held no punches in stating: “I think he has been one of our best players this season, without a doubt”.
So it’s great to see him return from the ban.
Yet, when someone returns another player inevitably has to step down from the 17. Ultimately that call will be down to Adrian Lam.
And with an interesting interchange bench of late, which in itself is a talking point, with the likes of Warrington-bound Bullock and Clark missing from the 17 in the last outing, and the bench predominantly made up of forwards, Lam has as a decision to make that will no doubt make another topic of discussion for fans.
Again, it will be good to see Isa return for the last home game of the season against Catalans on Friday, a game which will include in attendance frontline and key workers. With this in mind, let’s hope with fresh legs, Isa and the rest of the team who take to the field, will put in a massive shift!
What do you think of the current play-offs format? Is it fair? Is six the right number of teams?
Jon Lyon: I’m happy enough with the current format. Eight teams would be too many from a 12-team league. The current system also rewards the top two teams which is fully deserved.
Although in theory the club call was a farce, I still kind of miss it.
It was basically poking a bear with a stick.
There is no sense in choosing a team knowing full well that by doing so you are basically saying you think they are the poorest team left, but it made things interesting and often backfired.
Ste Ford: I much prefer the original top five play-off format, where the team finishing top gets the opportunity of a second chance if they lose the first round eliminator. This version gives some significant benefit for finishing top.
The top six format means you have 50 per cent of the competition in the play-
offs, which rewards mediocrity.
Andy Grundy: I have heard different arguments, some for it and some against and for numerous reasons.
One of which is an argument that Wigan would have more preparation for a semi-final date with rivals St Helens on Friday, October 1, should they win and Warrington lose in the eliminators due to recent changes, which now sees Wigan, who were set to play the fifth-placed side on Friday, September 24 in a do-or-die game, now play on the Thursday instead. Which leaves Warrington’s clash with the side in sixth, now possibly taking place on the Friday instead, although not yet confirmed.
This would provide us with a full week of preparation ahead of a clash with league leaders Catalans.
Some arguing that it is not fair and advantageous due to extra downtime and preparation.
However, someone recently mentioned to me how they like the simplicity of it and I too support this view.
Let’s face it, it’s always going to be under some form of scrutiny and make some unhappy!