The 18th Man: Wigan fans back Umyla Hanley and discuss Theo Fages' controversial try

Wigan fans talk about who they want to see put in at fullback and whether Theo Fages was right to carry on an score, despite the injury to Josh Griffin.

Thursday, 10th June 2021, 9:51 am
Updated Thursday, 10th June 2021, 9:52 am
Umyla Hanley (Photo: Bernard Platt)

Wigan have no Field, French or Hardaker – who would you put at full-back until Hardaker’s back?

Sean Lawless: If Wigan had more options available in the backline, then I would like to have seen Bibby or Manfredi move to full-back.

The idea of one of them playing there would be that they’re really solid defensively and run the ball back hard, and I think accepting that for a few weeks would be fine for Wigan.

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However, this does feel like an opportunity to play Umyla Hanley in the position that he knows and can potentially excel in, there is no doubt he has found the wing role tough, and perhaps he needs the trust and belief to have that No.1 jersey for a couple of weeks.

Robert Kenyon: I’d be inclined to play Hanley at fullback.

I believe he’s played that position all his life so it makes sense to play him there, that way we can see how he fares.

There are other more experienced players who could do a job but once your first-choice fullback gets injured you dip into the academy, otherwise you may as well scrap it if you’re not going to put faith in the players and staff.

Jon Lyon: I’ve always fancied Manfredi would make a decent full-back.

He’s good under the high ball, decent in defence and would bring the ball back strongly and with plenty of speed.

Our lack of fit wingers will put paid to that plan, though.

I think Umyla Hanley deserves a crack in his first choice position.

He has excelled in the youth team and has pushed for his first-team place on the basis of those performances so why not give him a chance?

It’s a tough position where a mistake can often lead to a try, which puts a player under pressure but Hanley has played well on the wing when given the chance so far and if we don’t try him we’ll never know if he’s good enough. He’ll learn more from playing full back and learning from the odd mistake than he ever will pushed onto the wing.

Ste Ford: I think that Hastings could work.

He is the complete professional so I am quite sure he could adapt to the role. Having said that, personally I would give Hanley a go.

He’s looked shaky on his appearances so far but in fairness to him he has played out of position so give the lad a go where I believe he has played most of his rugby.

Darren Wrudd: It never rains but it pours, eh!

From having three of the most exciting full backs in the league, all wondering who will get the spot, to scratching our heads and thinking who can we pinch from another spot to cover for a while.

With our sketchy form of late, I would suggest our spine of 6/7/9 is not altered and would be more tempted to drop someone like Umyla Handley at the back.

Some first-grade time under his belt already, it could be the making of him.

The position is so involved that he would up his involvement and, if he is fit enough, could return the ball with some speed.

If Hastings is dropped to full back, not sure where our attack would come from ?

Andy Grundy: Many fans are discussing this, with many saying put Umyla Hanley in at full back, which would be a good choice in my opinion.

He’s still very young with plenty of good qualities, but also raw and still lots to learn.

Only by being out on the park will he really be able to learn his trade.

Alex Graham: I think it's obvious that we should be playing Hanley.

He's a specialist full-back with first team experience who we've invested in long term, we pay him and he has earned representative honours in the ranks below.

What's the point in retaining him if we don't have the confidence or commitment in him to do the job he's paid to do?

I appreciate there's players with more experience but that doesn't mean we have to put a round peg in a square hole or change the way we best play just to accommodate one position.

From a long-term perspective, we need to build on how we best play with players in their best position.

If Hanley isn't the right person then we bring the next best suited player with long term potential in the fullback position, whether youth or utility, and prevent as much disruption to the remainder of the best starting team as possible.

Rewind to the Challenge Cup semis – was Theo Fages right to score the try from Josh Griffin’s dropped ball (and was the referee right to award it)?

Sean Lawless: I think its really easy to judge Theo Fages as a Wigan fan, and say he should have stopped or St Helens should have allowed Hull FC to score a walk-in try to even things up.

But, lets be real here.

This was a Challenge Cup semi-final, Wembley is on the line, and you play to the whistle.

The onus was on the ref to stop the play if he felt appropriate to do so and he didn’t, so you have to say – well done to Fages for seeing the opportunity and playing to the whistle, and incredibly hard lines to Josh Griffin, who suffered a freak injury which probably rules him out of World Cup contention for England.

Robert Kenyon: Every player is taught to play to the whistle and that’s what Fages did.

If a player was knocked unconscious and loses the ball then it shouldn’t be a try, because that player may have lost the ball due to foul play.

But because he let go of the ball without being tackled and the play being stopped, then it’s play on in my book and a try.

Seems harsh but it’s tough, if you hurt yourself like many others do you take the tackle and keep hold of the ball, or pass it to one of your players and drop to the floor.

I really hate to see the game stopped due to injuries unless they are in the way of play or it’s a head injury.

I think in the last few seasons players have had the attitude of ‘stop everything I’m hurt’ like they do in football, even trying to stop the game for cramp.

And despite it being a bad injury, he should have kept possession.

It’s a try in my book and a valuable lesson to all who saw it.

Jon Lyon: 100 per cent yes. The situation unfolded so quickly there wouldn’t have been time to stop the game before Fages had scored.

Although undoubtedly an agonising injury, it wasn’t a head injury and there was no further risk to Griffin’s health, so by the rules the game shouldn’t have been stopped.

Fages was no doubt just playing on instinct.

He would have had it drilled into him for 20 years to play to the whistle, so it would have been purely reactionary on his behalf.

For all the criticism Fages has received, imagine Liam Farrell scoring a similar try in the last minute of a Grand Final against St Helens, I imagine we’d all be adamant that was a fair try.

Having been scored, I don’t see the referee has any real grounds to disallow the try. Presumably he is the only one who could have stopped play, and he rightly didn’t, so there are no reasons to disallow it once the try has been scored.

It was a very unfortunate incident for Josh Griffin, but ultimately that’s sport, it can happen occasionally.

Ste Ford: I didn’t watch it. I can’t watch when I know that Saints are going to win. I won’t be watching the Challenge Cup final either.

Saints will beat Cas by 20 to 30 points and I couldn’t cope with watching that.

Darren Wrudd: Theo Fages played to the whistle, what more could anyone ask of their players?

All too often we see whole back lines stand by waiting for the whistle that does not come, and tries leaked by many teams because of it.

What Fages did was perfectly correct and, as a coach, I would have berated him if he had done anything else.

If perhaps he had just stopped and put his hand up to the ref, the whistle would have blown and not much else would have been said.

But Griffin let go of the ball early, understandably of course, but in the event that play was not stopped, the try was perfectly fine in my eyes.

The big question is whether the referee should have blown early, but I think not. Watching in slow motion, the officials had minutes to decide on what to do, but in real time the matter was over in a few seconds.

In the end it did not matter much with the final score, but, if it had, the right decision was made.

As an aside...

With the current resurgence of Covid 19 and the devastating rate the Indian variant is spreading, is it time to ask of the sport whether it is too soon to be rushing back to stadiums.

The following week sees our first home game in front of fans and I have been watching very carefully the standards to which fans are being held on the televised games recently.

Now don’t get me wrong, the Wigan club has put out a most comprehensive document, freely available on their website, which states the ground rules to which everyone must abide if they are to come along to the DW Stadium on match day.

My issue is how well this will be policed by the club.

Human nature is fickle at best, and I am tired of weak excuses as to why people don’t wear a mask and also the typically harsh reaction if anyone is genuinely challenged in a respectful manner.

I understand some people cannot wear a mask, but does that make them less of a risk -– not in my eye. And until the threat of Covid is over, perhaps a blanket rule of wear a mask or don’t attend should be adopted.

I think you may be surprised by how many decide they can wear one after all.

I for one cannot see myself attending a game until I have witnessed just how the matter is policed at the stadium, and look forward to seeing much better behaviour than at many other Super League clubs recently.

So if you do decide to go along, enjoy the day, cheer the lads an extra shout for me, but look after one another by ensuring you stay within the guidelines and wear a face covering for the whole duration, helping to protect yourself, your family and friends and the people around you.

Not forgetting the club that we all love so much.

Andy Grundy: You are told to ‘play to the whistle’ and the whistle was never blown, and Theo Fages scores the try.

He did what most would do, some may argue it was unsportsmanlike of him and they would have a valid point, yet the majority would not blame him taking the opportunity to pick up and score. The referee then went upstairs to support his on-field decision of a try.

However, and speaking from my own past experience as a player who sustained a serious ankle injury during a game that needed two major reconstruction operations, my view and firm opinion on this matter is as follows...

As a sport we invest thousands on research to aid our knowledge of injury prevention and how to look after players when injuries unfortunately occur.

We also speak about prioritising the health and safety of our players over everything else, including focus on their mental health.

And we are governed like any other employer by law to uphold a clear set of obligations that include a Duty of Care for all of our players.

On Saturday we had a scenario where a player, Josh Griffin, clearly had a serious and possibly career-ending injury, which everyone could easily see straight away.

St Helens players, such as Tommy Makinson and Kyle Amor both put their hands up immediately to the referee to stop play, and you also had TV commentators stating how they believed Griffin’s Achilles had ruptured and how cruel it was.

Again, it was very obvious to see and clearly serious.

Yet we show focus and priority on the necessity for a seriously injured player needing to ground the ball, in order to complete the tackle successfully because ‘it’s the rules’.

Personally, I think this is absolutely ridiculous, how could he? The poor lad had just ruptured his Achilles!

We even had half-time comments made by certain pundits, how they’d never seen anything like it (a player dropping the ball like that) and how they’ve seen players with eyeballs hanging out of sockets and still ground the ball. Is this what we have really become as a game?

A total lack of sympathy, compassion and understanding...surely we are better than that?

We had other commentators repeatedly saying ‘it’s the rules’...what? To put a player in an even more vulnerable position and possibly make the injury even worse, because the rules state it?

Where is the protection and care amongst many other things for that player, I ask? Please take time to think how Griffin felt sat down on the pitch in total agony, with play ongoing around him and then everyone cheering Fages’ try after the ref went upstairs.

His season over, his potential selection for the 2021 World Cup gone, his career at an age 31 quite possibly over. And then going home and listening to such comments made on TV and also the ones made on social media, plus a two-match ban later handed to him.

The negative ramifications on him personally could potentially be massive and on many levels, I hope this is not the case and he comes back strong.

This is just my opinion though and as they say: ‘the rules are the rules’.

Wishing him all the best and a speedy recovery!

Alex Graham: There was nothing wrong with what both player and referee did in that position.

I understand it's unfortunate and it's terrible to see such a bad injury to a player, but we can't review such an incident with so much hindsight.

What if the injury just ended up being cramp?

Or what if it was a Hull player who was first to the ball to score?

It opens a can of worms which will only lead to further argument, confusion and inconsistency.

Keep it simple - play to the whistle.