The 18th Man...Wigan Warriors fans give their views on who the club's Player of the Year would be right now

Wigan Warriors fans talk about who they believe has been their best player so far this season.

Thursday, 15th July 2021, 9:21 am
Updated Thursday, 15th July 2021, 9:42 am
Jackson Hastings
Jackson Hastings

Wigan are approaching the halfway point - if you were awarding a Warriors Player of the Year award right now, who would it go to?

Jon Lyon: To be honest I don’t think it’s even close. Early on Zak Hardaker would have been a front runner but suspension and injury have put paid to that.

Kai Pearce-Paul has been a breath of fresh air in the team and Liam Farrell is his usual consistent quality self every week but Jackson Hastings has been head and shoulders above everyone else so far.

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As well as being our main creative hub, his efforts in defence and at bringing the ball out and doing the hard yards while the forwards are returning to the line following a kick are outstanding. Everything he does is fully committed and he really sets an example to the younger players in the team.

Even playing out of position hasn’t fazed him and he has been excellent at fullback too.

He will be a huge loss next year and Harry Smith and Jai Field have a tough act to follow.

Darren Wrudd: Players of the year are often selected due to the flashy moves or finishing touches that are able to grab the headline and remain in the memory, but an under the radar performer is always in my minds eye for the work they may do which goes unnoticed by the media at large and yet forms the basis of what we are here at Wigan.

Two players would be neck and neck in my selection and Sam Powell would be one of them.

He does so much work for this team and yet gets little glory for his efforts, he is a magnificent example of a professional both on and off the field.

My other would be Willie Isa, a man who has shown his true character over the last twelve months and I stand impressed.

He leads with his actions on the field and is a ferocious defender.

Always there to drive the ball out of our own 10 metre area, he is a tough, hard working player and his only fault seems to be over enthusiasm to work.

Running out of the line to close down attacking options can be a great defence but sometimes leaves us open. I happily forgive him that and hope he is here for a few years more.

Ste Ford: I find this a very difficult question to answer due to a general malaise within the club, injuries, suspensions and rank bad displays.

Before the Saints game I would have probably said Isa but his recklessness in that game probably wiped off his displays out of position for most of the season.

We have seen fleeting glimpses from Farrell but in a pack consistently second best its difficult for a player even as good as Farrell to raise his game above the mediocrity.

Hardaker started the season well but after proclaiming himself to be the best FB in the competition his form fell off a cliff, then came the seemingly inevitable injuries and suspension.

Although Hastings hasn’t gotten out of second gear by default he would probably get my vote with Joe Shorrocks and KPP probably the best of the young guns.

Robert Kenyon: It’s a tough one because the early part of this season Zak Hardaker was the standout player, granted he’s been out for a while other players have stepped up and carried on their good form like Liam Farrell and Jackson Hastings.

I think based on games played and how well they played in those games I’d have to say Hardaker.

Alex Graham: I think there’s only one choice - Jackson Hastings.

There’s only been Hastings who has performed consistently well this season even when out of position. Based on this choice, it flags up so many criticisms and concerns with regards to why our best player is being used to plug another position and why there’s such a lack of reports and activity to replace him.

The only other player who has earned any form of award recognition is Kai Pearce Paul who has performed brilliant since his introduction.

If he maintains current form he won’t just collect the Young Player of the Year, he will be a genuine contender for Player of the Year too.

Andy Grundy: Tough one as I am split between two players, Jackson Hastings and Liam Farrell who are neck and neck in my opinion at this stage.

Both of these players have put in some big performances and have done so consistently, whilst leaving nothing out on the field.

If I was forced to choose, I would go with Hastings. I am sure we would all agree, he will leave a huge void when he leaves the club at the end of season!

After beating them on Sunday, what do you want to see Wigan do differently against Huddersfield tomorrow?

Jon Lyon: Our defence has certainly stiffened up and conceding only two tries, one of which was dubious to say the least, shows how hard the players have been working in training to correct the issues we saw in the heavy defeat to Catalans.

What we really need to work on now is to be more clinical in the oppositions twenty. Too often the ball is passed along the line without drawing a defender and whoever ends up with the ball is usually outnumbered.

Our plays are too easy to read.

We need players to straighten up in attack and commit a defender before passing. Jackson did just this for Liam Farrell’s try against Huddersfield which shows how dangerous we can be.

KPP’s offloads have been effective but we need more players to get involved off the back of them to make better use of the broken field.

Too often the player receiving the ball is on his own and just drives the ball in, wasting the opportunity.

Our best attack at the moment seems to be off the back of a Hastings bomb or a Smith grubber but we need to create more in hand rather than just rely on kicking alone.

If we can sort that out and keep our discipline we should be looking at a second win in a row.

Darren Wrudd: Quite simply - kick! Much of what we did defensively after the first 13 minutes of the game kept the Giants at bay and we kept them scoreless for the remaining 67 minutes of the match.

Our finishing moves however cheated us of possibly another handful of tries.

If there are some grubber kicks slotted through on a regular basis it will keep their defence honest and unable to rush out whilst at the same time building pressure and attacking chances.

Just running it at the line does not bring success too often and so careful selection for that option needs attention to pull in defenders perhaps just not one after another.

A short kicking game like Harry Smith has can be a massive tool in our attack, use it.

Ste Ford: What I want the team cannot supply due to an unbalanced squad containing too much mediocrity compounded by injuries and topped with the worst coach since Millward. The proverbial perfect storm.

A good start to a game by scoring a few early points would be quite novel at the moment.

Robert Kenyon: I’d like to see our props each make 100m, the stats from the last game are poor for the props and this is where we are lacking as a team.

We need quicker play the balls, Powell needs to be quicker at getting the ball from the floor into the prop’s hands and the props need to be timing their runs right so that they’re catching the ball and crossing the advantage line almost simultaneously.

The props also need to start offloading to push that second phase to tire the opposition out and quell their enthusiastic line speed, if they have a quick line speed and we aren’t offloading then they’ve been successful and it’ll spur them on.

However, promoting the ball with offloads will take the wind out of their sails and they’ll not be as keen to use all their energy with quick line speed.

Alex Graham: Yet again, the performance on Sunday was frustrating to watch, which has become a consistent emotion when watching Wigan this season even with the early run of results.

Facts and stats compared to the rest of the competition, including bottom of the ladder, suggest our attack is extremely poor.

But why? Even with injuries the team is made up of internationals, the country’s finest academy products and former Grand Final winners, so skill set isn’t the issue. The issue has to be whatever ‘’process’’ or team selection the players are being asked to follow.

Two tries scored on Sunday were from an off-the-cuff attacking kick by Harry Smith and sublime pass from Jackson Hastings who briefly slotted in at halves as Leuluai left the field.

These two moments were outside the ‘’process’’ being drilled into them. Maybe the players should take it upon themselves to break the shackles of the coach’s ‘’process’’ and play what they see.

Andy Grundy: As I have stated previously, there is effort from the team in games. Yet, for me, they need to be more clinical and really focus on doing the basics correctly, cut out silly forced passes, work collectively as a unit and ensure the defence is stronger, as teams in my opinion have made some easy yards of late, especially around the middle.

Hastings has been hit with a ban for this next game and whilst one player most certainly doesn’t make a team, his presence will be missed. So everyone in the selected team will need to step up to the mark, or Huddersfield could potentially turn us over!

This weekend is the Challenge Cup Final. What’s your favourite Wigan Challenge Cup win?

Jon Lyon: What a question. My fourth ever game was the 1985 Challenge Cup final, and that was some introduction to trophy winning.

One of the greatest games of all time, I apparently burst into tears as an eight year old when we went behind early on but Brett Kenny and John Ferguson had other ideas and the rest is history.

The 2002 win in Edinburgh is also a favourite as we were underdogs by quite some way but my favourite is the 27-0 win against St Helens in 1989.

What was not to enjoy? Saints full of expectation with their big Aussie names in Vautin and O’Connor flown back especially for the final but completely blown away by a phenomenal Wigan performance.

Andy Gregory was exceptional and Ellery Hanley scored one of the great Wembley solo tries but the highlight for me was Joe Lydon putting Steve Hampson over in the corner, and the look on Hampo’s face as he rounded off a great win, having missed three previous finals with broken bones. Perfection.

Darren Wrudd: Has to be 2002 Murrayfield. The Radlinski final, although I understand Adrian Lam often points out how he set up the tries for Rads to take the glory.

Either way, with foot surgery, one boot the next size up so it could go over the swollen and bandaged foot, Kris Radlinski showed why he was the best British full-back in the history of the game in both ability and spirit.

The whole memory of a brilliant weekend is burned into my mind as we once again beat the odds and came home with the silverware. The team talk from Whelan (the then owner) was not great.

At a lunch before the team set out Mr Whelan pointed at a table with all the Wigan cups and trophies on it, with a gap in the middle.

He said in no uncertain manner that there better be no gap when they come back. Not exactly uplifting but in spite of that they brought it home.

Ste Ford: Has to be Hull in 1985. We hadn’t won it for 20 years and I’d never seen the club win at Wembley.

A packed house, a great game, some fantastic tries and the right result. The perfect day.

Kenny’s try was obviously one of the best ever tries at Wembley but I thought Ferguson’s first try was pure magic from a brilliant finisher.

Robert Kenyon: I’d have to say 2002. It was the only trophy we won between 1998 and 2010, in that 12 year period where Saints dominated it was nice to put one over on them.

2011 was great, as that was the first cup win since 2002 and I was at Wembley for that game.

As soon as Joel Tomkins scored I said ‘We’ve just seen one of the best ever tries at Wembley’.

I remember 1992 onwards but I was too young to fully appreciate those finals. 2002 for me as it happened in the Golden Age of Super League when we had high quality Australians and Kiwis but also legends of the game in both the Wigan and Saints team.

Alex Graham: I was fortunate enough to be brought up in the eight-in-the-row era and although we’ve had more satisfying wins in recent years, the size of occasion and electric atmospheres of those visits to Wembley are incomparable.

My favourite memories are the 94 and 95 visits when the trip down had become a ritual.

The Wigan teams were established professional superstars and man of the match performances were from wingers which suggests what type of Rugby was being played!

Andy Grundy: I would always go with the 1989 game and for a number of reasons.

Not only was it a game against our arch-rivals St Helens, but it was a game that had some exceptional players on display.

I used the word “clinical” above and Wigan on that day were exactly this, they were outstanding and the atmosphere was electric.

On top of that, I played in the U11’s Curtain-Raiser game just before it, live on TV, and we had spent a couple of days prior to the game hanging out with the first team.

We were even lucky enough to be in the changing room directly after the match with them.

What memories of an outstanding game of rugby league!