Warriors v Wakefield match preview: Tomkins on Super 8s
Sam Tomkins left Wigan as a champion in 2013.
As he boarded the plane for New Zealand to begin what turned-out to be a two-year stint at rugby league’s other Warriors, his fingerprints might still have been on both the Super League and Challenge Cup trophies back in the DW Stadium cabinet.
Sam-less Wigan was less successful, and though it could be argued the two are linked, his absence isn’t the only reason the past two seasons have been without post-final celebrations.
And even though Tomkins was on the other side of the world, watching his mates fall short was uncomfortable viewing for him – meaning he wants to put it right as much as they do now he is back in cherry and white.
“We want to win trophies. We’re a successful club which demands more success,” he explained.
“Two years with no trophies hurts and now we’ve only got the chance of winning one big one.
“We need to be sat there in October and be happy with our efforts rather than disappointed with what we’ve done.”
The ‘big one’ Tomkins is referring to is the Super League trophy, following Warriors’ Challenge Cup exit at the semi-final stage against Hull FC a week ago.
Reaching Wembley would have been the perfect homecoming for Tomkins, who scored the last try of his first Wigan chapter under the famous arch in the 2013 Final win, coincidentally against Hull.
There are, of course, two trophies left for Wigan to aim for – the other being the League Leaders’ Shield for finishing top of the ladder at the conclusion of the Super 8s.
And while coach Shaun Wane and some of Tomkins’ playing colleagues have stressed the importance of picking-up a first Shield since 2012, the prize doesn’t inspire as much enthusiasm from the England full-back.
“The League Leaders’ is a nice trophy to win but as we all know it doesn’t get you too much,” he said with a refreshing air of honesty.
“Everyone wants the Grand Final and if you win a Grand Final you wouldn’t be bothered (about not winning the Shield).
“Obviously we want to finish top, we want to win every game we play so that means you want to be top, but it’s not a massive deal personally.”
What is a big deal to Tomkins though is that the Warriors of the Northern Hemisphere can measure their season in success – and that means the first checkpoint is finishing in the top four to earn a play-off spot.
Tonight then, looks on paper like an early opportunity to get some points on the board – and maybe even rack-up a decent score to dilute grumblings among some fans that Wigan’s attack has been off this year (and they have a point, only ninth-placed Leeds finished the opening 23 rounds with fewer points scored).
Opponents Wakefield could be forgiven for treating the 8s as a post-season ‘let’s see what happens.’ They have no realistic chance of making the play-offs from eighth place and their Super League survival is ensured.
But Tomkins points-out the difficulty Chris Chester’s men have posed for Wigan so far this season.
He watched on in April as a Warriors side ravaged by injuries and illness fell 62-0, their third worst defeat ever, to Trinity.
Tomkins was still recovering from knee surgery at the time, yet to make his second debut for the club.
He did line-up to face them at the DW Stadium last month though. And what fans hoped would be a rousing revenge mission turned into a scrap for a late Wigan win courtesy of a last-minute Lewis Tierney try.
“You only need to look at the last two games we’ve had against them – they gave us a hiding, 62 points, and then we scored in the last second to beat them about a month ago, so we know that they are dangerous,” he said.
“And they are coming off the back of a loss, a convincing loss in the semi-final which I’m sure they will be embarrassed about so they’ll want to bounce back straight away.
“They’ll have a very similar mentality to us this week.”
And with the Super 8s structure beginning its second season, Tomkins will get his first taste of it tonight.
Having watched from the other side of the world last season, the concept intrigues him, and he thinks it has improved the competition at the bottom as well as the top of the table.
“I watched it last year. I think it’s a great set-up,” he said.
“It means the Middles 8s gives us something to watch as well – who’s going to be in the Super League next near.
“It’s a brilliant concept. Something needed changing and I think this was a great idea.”
But one other thing the concept means is that the chance of cruising into the play-offs has been cut dramatically.
Wigan lost their last four league games on the bounce in 2013 (sandwiching the Cup Final win) to finish fourth.
A strong play-off campaign ensured a Grand Final appearance and a few sick days across Wigan the week after as a result of the celebrations.
But this year, Tomkins knows to secure a play-off spot, and ideally a home semi-final, they can’t drop that many points again.
He said: “We need to really make some sacrifices and do everything we can.”