The 18th Man column...Wigan Warriors fans name their player of the season

Warriors fans talk about who they believe has been their team's star man over the past season.

Friday, 1st October 2021, 10:20 am
Updated Friday, 1st October 2021, 10:26 am
Willie Isa

Darren Wrudd:

It’s always hard to decide on a player of the year, as each have so often had their moments and I hate to have to leave one or two out as I am struggling to get beyond my top three.

Sam Powell is, in my eyes, one of the strongest players we have had this year.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Tough and uncompromising, he leads by example and adds such a maturity to the direction of the squad during play. Jackson Hastings, I think, will be most people’s favourites as he has consistently shown himself to be both flexible and useful in whatever position he needs to fill.

Always giving 100 per cent, Hastings I think may get the popular vote.

But my player of 2021 would have to be Willie Isa.

He seems faster than previous years, stronger and more aggressive in his defence too. Watching him off the ball, the workload he shoulders is simply inspiring.

Always there to take in a hard carry, many of the youngsters could learn a lot about the right attitude to succeed in this sport by following his example.

So perhaps not the one you were expecting, but Isa for me has been our player of the year.

For me, young player of the year was a straight shoot-out between Joe Shorrocks and Harry Smith until I found out they were both technically too old.

Shorrocks will be a household name in Wigan for years to come as I think he has a real star quality about him, while the strength of character shown by young Smith has been a joy to watch. Pitched into a team on a full-time basis probably a year too early, Smith has stood up and developed his game under the close scrutiny afforded to any half back in cherry and white, coming out the other side with great character.

But to look beyond Kai Pearce-Paul as the actual young player of the year would be hard to do.

This lad has it all – speed, agility, presence and skill, not to mention a killer offload game or that he hits like a train. If we can sign some of these lads up long term and stop letting them shy out of contracts when they think they have a better offer, we won’t be far off the top for years to come.

As for reflections on 2021, for Wigan I fear will be remembered for the under achievements.

The season began with such an exciting squad lined up, but before the end of the first game of the year we were already struggling in attack, and it just got worse with injury upon injury slowly depleting our squad.

I honestly began the year with great expectations and, through sheer bad luck, we were facing an uphill battle from the off.

We have had some highlights with the emergence of players like Pearce-Paul, Sam Halsall and the fabulous Shorrocks.

But playing more regular games than any other team, we were always going to struggle for energy come the end of the campaign.

Our forwards worked hard all year long, and looked absolutely shot come the playoffs, so a proper off season is fully deserved for them, and come back fresh and raring to go for pre season.

Finally, with several players leaving for new pastures, one important colleague who is doing the same will certainly be missed next year.

Our very own Phil Wilkinson is off to pastures new, and I would like to wish him the very best of luck in his new career.

He promises he may come back for the odd freelance contribution, and I do hope so as his knowledgeable and frank way of writing shows just how he knows and understands our game with some very insightful and entertaining articles.

Jon Lyon:

There’s only one winner for player of the year. In a torrid season, Jackson Hastings has stood head and shoulders above everyone else.

Other players like Farrell and Bibby have been consistent all year, but Hastings has led from the front in every game he has played.

Whether it be stand off, scrum half, hooker or full back, Hastings gives 100 per cent every time he takes to the pitch, and does his level best to drag the rest of the team with him.

Not only a quality player, Jackson has also been inspiring off the pitch.

His interaction with fans is second to none, and he has embraced our great club during his time here and will be a huge loss to the team next year.

I wish you all the best Jacko, and who knows, maybe we’ll see you back in cherry and white one day.

There have been some very strong contenders for young player, as many of our better contenders fall into this category.

Hanley has shown glimpses of his quality in the few chances he has had, and Sam Halsall has been outstanding every time he has taken to the pitch, looking strong under the high ball and with ball in hand.

Smithies, Smith, Shorrocks and Harvard all deserve a mention too.

The biggest impact, though, has been from Kai Pearce-Paul.

His dynamic displays have brought another dimension to what had been a struggling attack this year.

He had a wonderful ability to find an offload time and again and gives us a real chance to catch teams off guard, which we haven’t always capitalised on.

Fingers crossed we can keep Kai at the club as he should be an integral part of the team moving forward.

As to an overview, where do we start? A great start with seven wins from seven, grinding out some gritty victories while not playing very cohesively.

A big downturn in the middle of the year, when injuries really started to bite and putting out any kind of consistent team became impossible, and finally an upturn

at the right time as we found a great tenacity in defence that looked like it could make up for our attacking shortfalls, yet fell short in the end.

It’s goodbye to a few great servants for this club, none more so than Adrian Lam.

A wizard of a scrum half, Lammy was appointed in strange circumstances, which turned stranger still with the Edwards debacle.

Criticism flowed far too easily.

And while we didn’t win all we wanted, Lammy delivered a League Leaders’ Shield and only a fluke cost him a Grand Final win, all the while dealing with a horrendous injury list every year and no chance of fielding a first-choice team.

People forget he has been away from his family for so long and stuck by us when others let us down.

It’s been an impossible task and he has behaved with dignity and a clear love for the club through it all.

Thank you Adrian, for all the memories as a player and coach, you deserved better from a lot of people.

Ste Ford:

Player of the year is a difficult one this after a particularly poor and frustrating season.

I’d go for Wille Isa. He played out of position for the majority of the season out of position and he displayed skills at centre I didn’t think he had.

He got a lot of criticism for his display against Saints where he got sin binned and a subsequent ban.

Personally I was fine with this as out of frustration he wore his heart on his sleeve and for me his love of the badge.

Bibby also deserves credit for his commitment and think a 100 per cent record of appearances.

As for young player of the year, I suppose the obvious choice would be KPP.

However, my vote goes to Shorrocks.

Another player played out of position but he never gives less than 100 per cent.

If we can find the right position for him we could have a very talented player on our hands.

If he could play with a dominant pack I think we would see a player with some decent ball handling skills

On the whole, the campaign will be remembered for being a frustrating and wasted season.

A season of records we didn’t want e.g. highest number of nil scores, lower points for per game, less tries per game than Leigh.