The 18th Man: Wigan Warriors fans make their predictions

Wigan Warriors fans look ahead to their team's Challenge Cup game with Hull FC.

Friday, 7th May 2021, 11:14 am
Updated Friday, 7th May 2021, 11:25 am
Oliver Gildart is an NRL target (photo: Getty Images)

Wigan face Hull FC in a Challenge Cup tie on Saturday - what are you expecting?

Sean Lawless: Playing a team twice in a week is always a strange one and I can imagine it’s a strange one for the players also.

Wigan will be buoyed by their win on Thursday but will also be wary that form in the Challenge Cup really didn’t apply in their game against Leeds last year.

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I have been really pleased with the way Wigan have been seeing out games, they backed themselves last week to manage a two point lead with 15 minutes to go.

I expect another close game and I expect Hull’s suspended players to be a real miss for them and for Wigan to pull clear over the 80 minutes.

Darren Wrudd: I am expecting Hull to be their usual selves, that is a nasty and underhand side full of cheap shots and cheats. It is how they have played for decades so no surprises there.

From Wigan I expect to see a dominant pack with some self control to underline our high standards.

The backs can run rings around these Yorkshire wannabes and so let’s give them room to do just that.

Send them home with a flea in their ear and a point proved.

I am looking for high completion rate and low penalty count with a sparkle or two from our young and promising half back Smith.

But watch out for a referee keen to take a medal or two, many of the calls last week were rather one sided and I shall be interested to see if the trend continues.

Jon Lyon: A tougher game than last week.

I don’t think Hull were at their best, though that may well be down to the pressure Wigan put them under.

It may be to their benefit that Jake Connor is banned as he can be a liability at times. His 10 minutes in the sin bin was costly, as was the penalty he gave away that ultimately won Wigan the game.

I think it will be a tougher forward battle but I still think we have the guile to create more than Hull and I expect us to edge another close game, I’ll go for 22-18.

Alex Graham: Following the outcome and aftermath of last week’s racism allegations I fully expect Hull to use the drama as motivation and will come out firing on Saturday.

The key for Wigan will be weathering Hull’s initial energy and sticking to our game plan.

I have absolutely no doubt that the game will have some added needle and with the difference between both clubs last week arguably being discipline we can’t be sucked into the storylines created by the media, as shown last week with Connor and Hardaker performances undoubtedly being affected.

It needs a composed, professional approach by Lam and the leadership team.

Oliver Gildart is the latest Wigan player to be linked with a move to the NRL. Does losing players to Australia bother you or not?

Sean Lawless: When the phenomenon of losing players to the NRL first really came around in its current guise in 2012, when Ian Lenagan presented his vision of losing players but them coming back – he has been pretty spot on.

I think every NRL decision that has been made has not been to the determent of Wigan; even when players have been really successful i.e. John Bateman, we got a large transfer fee and he came back after two seasons.

I am surprised at Oliver Gildart however, it feels like he has missed a lot of rugby over the past couple of seasons and I expected him to maybe sign another 12 month extension at Wigan, to ensure he sells himself to the NRL in the best light possible. However the talent conveyer belt of the Wigan academy will never stop and another opportunity for a Hanley or Halsall to cement a first team place may be on the horizon.

Darren Wrudd: Two sides to this equation at least but first and foremost, I do not resent any young player testing his metal in what really is the best level of rugby league in the NRL.

If clubs Down Under show interest it is a compliment to our game and with the lack of money and promotion of the sport up here, the rewards for success are obvious.

That said, I do think that a contract is a contract.

I have been in business myself for over 30 years and have never once reneged on a contract.

If players in Super League have a year or two left, they should be honourable enough to see them out or banned from returning for the remaining time on their contract if they come back with their tails between their legs.

A little harsh perhaps but it would make them realise that a handshake must mean something.

Jon Lyon: It’s frustrating at the time as you would think the Aussies produce enough players of their own, why do they need to look over here? It’s fair to say though that there are less superstars in the NRL than there used to be so we should take it as a compliment to our youth development.

It would be nice if there was a way clubs could be compensated for the years they put into bringing these young lads through.

Gildart would be a slightly lesser loss in that we haven’t seen much of him the last two years due to his terrible luck with injuries, so the loss would hurt less than when George Williams or John Bateman left.

That said, I’d love him to stay as he’s a top class centre when fit and on form.

The truth is though that Wigan’s ability to produce quality young players means ultimately we don’t need to worry as much as other clubs might.

For every Williams, Sutton and Bateman that leaves, there’s a Harry Smith, Oli Partington and Morgan Smithies coming through to take their place.

Alex Graham: It did bother me at first but as the gulf between Super League and NRL widens I’ve accepted where we sit within the player food-chain.

However, that’s not to say I’m one of those who are happy to see homegrown English talent lost to the NRL for ‘’the benefit of the national team’’ as I believe the welfare of the domestic competition is paramount.

With regards to Gildart’s choice, I’d be disappointed if he left for the NRL but wouldn’t hold any resentment towards him for wanting to test himself as he’s come through the ranks at Wigan, worked hard for his shirt, won silverware, gained international honours and thoroughly deserves to seek his next challenge.

I would like to have seen Harry Rushton who as now at the Canberra Raiders to show the same loyalty, work ethic, modesty and trust in the Wigan system as I think losing young players to NRL without playing a handful of first grade Super League games sets a dangerous precedent.

From a selfish point of view, if George Williams returns and becomes the second English player to depart the Raiders early after the significant costs to sign him, it will hopefully create risk awareness and deter other NRL clubs from poaching Super League’s best local prospects.

The new Sky Sports deal is reportedly worth £25m a year - down from £40m. What are your thoughts on that?

Sean Lawless: The headline of a reduction in fee looks disappointing and it is, but what this deal does, is create opportunity.

It appears that there is now the real potential of a second broadcaster for a number of games per season and the potential for the sale of some games via a streaming service.

The perfect scenario for me would one game per week is made available as pay as go on a streaming service, even through the Our League App and then a number of key games a year broadcast to the BBC.

Imagine the playoffs, the most intense part of the Super League season being broadcast on BBC2 live in September? The reach of the audience would increase massively and the audience would be seeing Super League at its best!

Darren Wrudd: I would love to have been in charge of Super League negotiations last time the licence was given away so cheaply to Sky.

A better and much more comprehensive deal was on the table but was ignored by the failed RFL chairman in favour of their chums at Sky.

As for the reduction by £15m per year down to £25m, Sky pay over £9m per game for Premier League football licence. This is peanuts to them and I would have stood firm or fired them off. I pay a lot for Sky TV per month, but that would be fired off if they lost the Super League and I hope others feel the same way.

I would be looking now for a better deal from any other broadcaster keen to help grow our sport instead of Sky who could not care less.

Jon Lyon: The reduced deal wasn’t unexpected, and won’t come as a shock to any club. It is disappointing but there’s little we can do about it.

It is encouraging to hear that some Super League games may be shown on BBC which should hopefully attract new supporters to our game, and likewise there is rumour Premier Sports may pay for some Championship games which can only help.

Longer term we need to find an alternative to Sky Sports, to at least have some competition when it comes to bidding for the rights again in two years time.

I feel they take our great sport for granted at times and it’s poignant that they tend to increase their coverage only at a time that suits them when there is no Premier League football on.

We deserve better.

Alex Graham: The only positives are that it’s something and a bit of security in the current climate.

Otherwise, it’s massively disappointing and true a reflection of rudderless, fragmented governance of the sport which is limping along and surviving day to day.

It was infuriating to see Sky Sports announce a significantly reduced broadcasting deal to maintain their low budgeted stale production by boasting about a 28 year old ‘’partnership’’ and the desperate attempts by Ian Lenagan and the other club owners pretend it’s not devastating news by suggesting we’re able to go to market.

Whilst the bickering commences on where the money goes it’s imperative the sport agrees structure, governance and more importantly seeks external investment which supersedes that of the club owners.