Which Wigan Warriors players could switch positions?

Our 18th Man columnists discuss players switching roles, Castleford, and drop goal kings...

Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 5:19 pm
Zak Hardaker and Jackson Hastings

Following Liam Farrell’s success at centre, are there any other Wigan players who you think could do a really good job in another role?

Sean Lawless: I do wonder how Wigan would fit the likes of Field, Hastings, Powell, Smith and Leuluai into the team should they all be fit later in the season.

With that in mind, I wouldn’t mind seeing Hastings play as a No.13 to see how he coped.

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We have seen him play at No.9 with success, he has proven he can defend in the middle and never shies away from carrying the ball into contact.

With his move to Wests now confirmed, it would be interesting to see Hastings shifted around to ensure that Harry Smith gets plenty of game time in the halves.

Robert Kenyon: I think Jackson Hastings could be a good No.13, this season especially in the NRL some teams have come away from a third prop at No.13 and thrown in an extra half or hooker due to the game speeding up, so I’d say loose forward, the English ball playing type.

Jon Lyon: I’ve always thought that Dom Manfedi would make a good full-back. He’s solid under the high ball, good defensively and has the size and speed to make some serious inroads when returning the ball.

Failing that, let’s give Tony Clubb a crack at scrum-half, he might not be another Andy Gregory but it would be fun watching him smash his opposite number in the likes of Fages and Sneyd!

Ste Ford: An obvious one would be Hastings at hooker. He has all the attributes to make a great No.9.

Over the years I had hoped that Manfredi may have moved into the centre position.

Big and powerful and if he has decent hands he could be pretty destructive in that position. Subject to injuries of course.

Andy Grundy: I would like to see Bevan French try out at stand-off, this is a position he does have experience playing in back over in Australia.

The full-back role is being bossed by Zak Hardaker (inset) at the moment, who is showing tremendous form after what looks to have been a great off season of training for him and in my opinion, it would be foolish to move him.

However, if Adrian Lam puts French in on the wing, as one may expect, this is potentially limiting his ability to attack, when really all that Wigan fans want to see, is him with ball-in-hand. It’s one headache that most coaches would love to have and as stated, this potential move would be another option to consider.

I could also see Oliver Gildart in at loose forward, Dom Manfredi carrying a little more weight and injury free in at second row and the versatile Jake Bibby, as Phil Clarke stated on Sky recently, could also potentially be another future second row move.

To be fair, many players are extremely versatile and often from playing amateur rugby as youngsters they will have experienced numerous playing positions.

Just as long as the move is not too ambitious, as with all the good will in the world, I don’t think Tony Clubb popping up on the wing would make for great viewing, or would it?!

Darren Wrudd: At the moment, I honestly think we have these lads specialising in their correct spots. Although I would love to see Hardaker permanently in the full back position with Bevan French perhaps in the centre spot which could give some great creative play on the edges. Imagine the pace and step of French on the back of a Hardaker break, now that could be a combination. I often thought that Tom Davies would make a darn good centre and with the extra beef that he is carrying this season, he could well offer that potential in the South of France. Others are well practised in alternate roles with Willie Isa excelling at second row or centre.

Wigan-Castleford tonight - predictions?

Sean Lawless: Tonight should be a great game, two 100 per cent records on the line.

I expect a Wigan victory, especially on a larger pitch at the DW Stadium and hopefully home advantage starts to become a bigger factor as we get closer to fans coming back into the stadium.

The form of Hardaker gives me so much confidence and I think even if he is pushed back into the centres, we will see his excellent form continue tonight.

Robert Kenyon: I’m looking forward to it, it will be a cracking game made all the better with the form and history of Hardaker. I do enjoy watching Castleford and they’ve done well to beat some of the top teams so this will be a cracker, I’m saying a Wigan win by six.

Jon Lyon: This is definitely our toughest game yet, Cas have started very well and have a great spine in Trueman, McShane and Evalds.

That said, we have made improvements each week and our own spine of Hardaker, Powell and Hastings are all playing exceptionally well.

Cas make great yards out of defence so our deep kicking game will need to be spot on to pin them back and as long as we put pressure on their half backs we have the patience, stamina and resilience to sneak this one. I’ll go for an 18-14 win.

Ste Ford: Too close to call. I’m worried that the Cas pack may overpower us. They have started really well scoring lots of points.

I’m hoping that we start the game better than recent weeks and that our fitness can pull us through to victory.

Andy Grundy: As stated over recent weeks, there are no easy games in Super League and this game will be no exception, with Castleford showing some early season form.

And even though Adrian Lam, in a pre-match interview in the last game, stated that a game plan was in place to action the issue with slow starts, we still actually didn’t really see it.

Although the team are winning and showing some real individual player quality, we still need to pay more attention to gaining faster momentum in the first 20 minutes and playing collectively as a team, or as I have also stated previously, I do believe it potentially could become an issue as the season progresses.

But I am going to go with another win, yet must stress, I have a feeling that this game will be the toughest test thus far.

Darren Wrudd: Castleford seem to have built really well this season and have had some great results. One thing for sure, they always up their game coming to Wigan and that could spell disaster if we don’t prepare well and turn up with the right mindset from the off. Cas have one or two really good players but have bought into a great ethos about the team, so the sum of its parts are far greater when playing as a unit. No doubt, we have the quality and skills to win this game but it will be our toughest challenge yet and a measure of where both teams are at in 2021. I am really looking forward to the battle of the front row forwards, I feel whoever wins that, controls the game.

Given some embarrassing drop goal attempts recently, the burning question... if you had to rely on one Wigan player past or present to strike a winning drop goal under pressure, who would it be?

Sean Lawless: When it comes to drop goals, there is only ever one man that you could rely on; one man with a 100 per cent record when it comes to drop goals – Neil Cowie.

The composure to slot over a drop goal at Odsal against a Bulls team at the height of their power shows how talented a drop kick specialist he is.

The other thing about Cowie was that no one is expecting it, the perfect disguised drop goal executor!

Robert Kenyon: Pat Richards, all day long. I know Andy Farrell was a goal kicking legend, Joe Lydon was before my time but I’ve seen Richards do it numerous times when it mattered, none more so that in 2007 against Bradford in the play-offs.

Jon Lyon: There can only be one man. The coolest of players under pressure who can pull out the big plays on the biggest of occasions, it has to be Joe Lydon.

It certainly helps he can bang one over from ten yards inside his own half, in a deadlocked cup semi final to boot. There’s not much more pressure than that!

Ste Ford: Got to be Andy Farrell. Nerves of steel and a decent boot on him.

Andy Grundy: Many come to mind, for example, Joe Lydon, Andy Farrell, Frano Botica and current Wigan head coach Adrian Lam.

However, whilst not many drop goals to his Wigan tally as standard goal kicks, Wigan fans I am sure, most certainly will have not forgotten Pat Richards’ 45-metre drop goal against St Helens in 2013 and of course the one against Bradford Bulls back in 2007. Richards’ kicking ability at the time actually attracted attention from many rugby union clubs including Sale Sharks.

However, if I had to choose one player, I would probably go with Matty Smith, another prolific kicker who most certainly knew how to slot a drop goal over the bar with success!

Darren Wrudd: I thought I had this nailed in my first instinct, but then began to over think the issue and narrowed it down to at least 12 individuals. But if my hand was forced, I would have to stay with one of my favourite players of recent times and an all time great for this club, Pat Richards. A great boot from any direction he could slot them in from all over and who could forget the audacious drop at Saints from the left touchline and forty metres out. Still makes me smile.