Wigan Warriors: The 18th Man - Does rugby league need to 'bring back the biff'?
We asked our panel of 18th Men about whether Super League has become devalued, is the odd fight such a bad thing, and which former Wigan player does it hurt most to see in an opposition shirt?
Wigan’s win over Leigh was their seventh game in a month...while their opponents hadn’t played in the same period. Is that just a sign of the times, or is it devaluing the competition?
Robert Kenyon: The whole scheduling of the games is throwing me off to be honest. There’s games at random times and on random days with no advertising. In years gone by it was staple to watch the better game on the Friday night like a Leeds v Saints, or a Hull FC v Wigan and then on a Saturday you’d get the lesser game at 6pm, whether it be London v Warrington or Wakefield v Castleford and I preferred that. In all honesty, the competition has been devalued recently due to Covid and the stop-start nature, postponing of games, the percentages for league position, etc. It would be nice for all teams to get some momentum so they play better rugby in order for a better game, but there’s the C word that’s doing everything it can to stop it.
Jon Lyon: It is what it is. I don’t think there’s any doubt the competition is devalued, but clubs can’t afford for the season not to go ahead so we have to put up with it. It seems very harsh many teams are playing three times in a week and backing up against well-rested opponents, and it does seem certain teams seem to be benefitting more than others. There is no other solution, though, without matchday income some clubs will be in serious financial difficulty. As always, whoever wins the Grand Final, by fair means or foul, will claim it a great victory, and whoever loses will claim the season means nothing!
Sean Lawless: This season is very much like 2020, in that it doesn’t look or feel like a fair competition. Wigan deserve a huge amount of respect for fulfilling the fixtures they have, rather than taking an easy route out and getting some cancelled – which I am sure some teams have done. Even when times were particularly tough a month or so back, Wigan ploughed on and fulfilled their games. However, Wigan do not receive any benefit from the fulfilment of their fixtures, due to the percentage of wins system currently used. Hopefully there is a benefit to having played the amount of games, and that is realised towards the end of the season with improved form and results.
Andy Grundy: If, for example, you put yourself in the shoes of Leigh Centurions, they are, as we know, new to the league this season and every game counts in what is turning out to be clearly an extremely tough time for them. So any negative impact like missing games and lack of preparation could and would inevitably impact them, yet this by no means is the only reason they are currently struggling. It is as stated within the question, also a sign of the times, but one could rightly say unfairly impacting on some teams more than others.
As for devaluing the competition, well yes, it is some would argue, but in my opinion, it is not down to bad management, as the game is doing everything it can to ensure play continues during extremely difficult and unprecedented times. It really is a Catch-22 scenario!
Darren Wrudd: I think it’s a bit of both really, yes Covid is wreaking havoc with some fixtures but how can a competition be fair if teams are isolating and having a good rest while the rest of us are flogging our lads twice a week. There has been much conjecture on certain clubs and just how legitimate their Covid claims have been, so much so that the RFL did at one point suggest checks and penalties may be required if teams were seen to abuse the system. That is of course unless they are Saints, who seem to do no wrong in the eyes of the establishment no matter how they flaunt the fair play rules on or off the field. I had decided, though, to not bother about the table or points average and instead just enjoy each game for the spectacle that it is, that way my season is a cracker whatever happens.
Warriors will miss Brad Singleton and Oliver Partington for a combined five matches for the skirmish against Leigh. Are you happy with the way the game clamps down on that or would you like to see a bit more ‘biff’?
Robert Kenyon: I don’t mind it as long as both participants are up for it and there aren’t any sucker punches. I can’t stand it when they all run in and basically push each other in the face like some snidey bunch of kids. It adds spice to the game, a bit of frustration, a niggle followed by a bit of biff livens up a dull game.
Jon Lyon: I’m torn on this one. On the one hand, there’s no doubt we, as fans, enjoy a bit of biff. It’s good to see the passion from the players when they back up their team-mates and it can certainly liven up a game that might otherwise be less than entertaining. Ultimately, though, it’s good that we’ve moved on from the thuggish days of the past. In society as well as sport we are rightly taking player and people’s welfare far more into account than previously, which can only be a good thing. As much as we enjoy a couple of props slugging it out, is it really worth losing players to two or three match bans, or losing someone for a couple of months with a broken jaw?
Sean Lawless: The biff is always great when it happens, the consequences however are not great for the team! There should be disciplinary action, but it all feels a little too harsh for my liking, Brad Singleton has already missed the majority of a game when he was sent off – which seems like it was missing from the ruling. Oliver Partington was responding to a pretty cheap shot from Butler to the back of Singleton’s head, which again feels harsh for the number of games he has been banned for. However, we may now see a rare sight for Wigan fans over the coming weeks, a player called Joe Bullock, remember him? Let’s hope Adrian Lam does!
Andy Grundy: On one hand and the reason these rules are in place, is the necessity to ensure the safety of all players. One must remember these are full-time professional athletes, who are not only role models, but could potentially cause serious injury during heated scenarios. On the other hand, it is as I say a tough game, and it’s the inevitable there will be occasions when heated situations overspill into something that encroaches into the red zone. However, I am sure many would agree, some of the calls we see and players banned, are questionable and in some instances almost ridiculous, which causes upset for obvious reasons. Therefore, any ban must be befitting of the crime and the decisions taken must be the correct ones, or the game could potentially lose some of its attraction!
Darren Wrudd: The game is rugby league, a tough no-nonsense scrap with professional athletes going at it for 80 minutes, there are times when things will boil over. But this ridiculous politically correct stance to over-penalise any aggression is ruining the sport. From referees handing out sin bins for late tackles that were not late, to anything more than a yellow or red card for a scrap unless someone is badly hurt, which very rarely happens, it seems the governing body is changing the game for the worse once more. Players are getting scared to challenge a kicker or hit a player passing the ball at the line just in case the video ref. shows they were 0.0002 seconds too late. A bit of biff on the field is not a bad thing and can be managed well within player welfare guidelines without becoming a game for softies.
George Williams has made a great start to his Warrington career. Which former Wigan player has it felt most ‘wrong’ to see in opposition colours?
Robert Kenyon: I think seeing Terry Newton in a Bradford shirt was the most wrong to see in my lifetime, he shouldn’t have been let go. Other than Terry Newton there’s Pat Richards, Sam Tomkins, Josh Charnley and now George Williams. Williams is a fantastic player, next year’s Man of Steel and the man who could win Warrington their first ever Grand Final.
I know there are reasons why we didn’t sign him but I’d have given up a load of players to have got him back, and the same goes for Charnley.
Jon Lyon: In modern times I would have to say Sam Tomkins in a New Zealand Warriors shirt and Micky McIlorum in a Catalans shirt. Both are local lads who we must all have hoped to see spend their whole careers at Wigan and I was gutted to see both leave. Having spent so long wearing the cherry and white hoops it just didn’t look right seeing either in a different shirt.
Over my whole time watching Wigan it would have to be Shaun Edwards. Fifteen years in a Wigan shirt winning a record number of winners medals, he was essentially Mr Wigan.
As always in sport time catches up with everyone and a move to London came about where he still averaged a try every other game for the Broncos and then Bradford. It was almost surreal to see him in the London shirt.He’s one of those players who should have been a one-club man.
Sean Lawless: I think George Williams and Warrington are very well suited – so much talent but lacking substance. The one player that still doesn’t look right and his performances are continuing to show how much class he has, is Sam Tomkins at Catalans. Since moving to the South of France, his performances have been absolutely incredible and his injury record has improved. It really is one of those, what if moments for Wigan fans every time he shows his class on Sky.
Andy Grundy: I’ve got to say, I always think it’s strange seeing Sam Tomkins in opposite colours. Granted he has not played for Wigan for sometime now, but it always seems strange when I watch him play in another strip. Most recently it’s George Williams of course. I don’t think most Wigan fans expected him to go to another club in Super League, which has been hard hitting for fans – and it will take some time to get used to seeing him in the Warrington colours!
Darren Wrudd: I like George Williams, I didn’t always but he has improved himself as a player since his stint at Canberra. However, I don’t think he had a particularly good start at Wire. A final drop goal was all he had to show as for much of the game he looked AWOL and out of touch, but that was expected. As for ex-Wigan players, I will stick with the modern era as many of our greats went on to other clubs having won every trophy here several times over. It never seems right though to see Josh Charnley in any shirt that is not Wigan. Even three years into his Warrington venture, he is a Wigan lad in my eyes, and although born in Chorley, that’s closer to us than Wire. Having only met him on a few short occasions, he comes across as a decent and honest lad if a bit ditsy, which is just simply endearing. I like Josh, will always want him to do well, but really just wish he was still a Warrior.
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