Wigan Warriors- The 18th man: ‘Liam Marshall should certainly be in the England World Cup squad’
The 18th man contributors reflect on the Super League Grand Final and preview the announcement of England’s Rugby League World Cup squad.
Unfortunately Saints won, in my opinion they shouldn't have got to the Grand Final, it should have been Salford.
Either way, Leeds didn't do enough on the night and the older experienced heads in the spine of their team went missing on the big stage.
From the Grand Final teams that played, I'd have Matty Lees in my England team all day long, he’s a brilliant player and I'd love him at Wigan.
Same goes for Jack Welsby, a born competitor.
You need both of these styles of players with their mentality, if you want to beat Australia and New Zealand.
I'd be tempted to throw Lomax in too, he's a steady eddy in the halves and can stick to a game plan.
From Leeds you'd have to pick Oledzki and Leeming, maybe even Hardaker as utility on the bench for England, though Hardaker isn't the fastest, nor the most creative centre he always gives 100% and is solid in defence, he can slot in at wing, centre and fullback too.
Quite often if a Grand Final does not feature Wigan, I can pick a side to support instead for the day, but the two teams which I just can’t stand were in evidence, so I just wanted to see them belt one another if I am honest.
I thought the game was one-sided for sure, with Saints once more setting the benchmark for UK Rugby League and please believe me when I say that it really hurts.
Needless to say that the previous ridiculous debacle leaving Morgan Knowles free to play should never have happened and brought a cloud over the integrity of our sport but play he did and I think he made a difference.
A few very contentious decisions by the referee but the worst had to be the lack of a penalty try.
A Grand Final, a close game, a massive decision when the video ref could be brought in and the referee says that ‘ in his opinion’ he would not have got there.
I think Leeds have good reason to feel hard done to, but also I am sure would admit that they played a game too far.
It kind of cheapens the four titles with one already being a Mickey Mouse title during covid when they hardly played any games whilst we were flogged.
Never mind, there’s always next year and we have a real shout.
Before that though there is the little issue of a World Cup tournament to play.
Shaun Wane has for once quite a good rosta from which to select with the right formula surely giving us a decent chance of competing.
Several players really should have their name on the selection sheets first and foremost and I would include Elliot Whitehead, Ryan Sutton, Jonny Lomax, Harry Newman, Michael McIllorum and Sam Tomkins in that number.
Whitehead has forged a career at Canberra Raiders, arriving as a Pom with some potential but becoming an amazing player with a fantastic spirit to the lad.
Tomkins is an obvious selection, but not perhaps for the form he has recently shown as I think that by his own standards he has been poor, but what he brings to a squad is unquestionable and vital in this theatre.
Others are I suppose predictable, but my inclusion of Michael McIllorum took a little consideration and even a chat with my brother in law John, who convinced me.
Micky Mac is possibly one of the most uncompromising individuals in the sport for eighty minutes, he does not give an inch and has a fierce nature which the antipodeans will fear. For me, he should be our enforcer.
There is a well known pool of players closely following on.
A couple that I would really have doubts over, but will probably make it, are the likes of George Williams.
He’s not done much since returning from Australia and we need a half to create and guide not just go through the motions.
Not really sure if Bateman has done enough this year to be included, he has seemed at times to have lost his attacking bite.
There are others too but I hope that the old methods of selection have long gone and form will have the squad select itself.
Finally I would like to wish Leigh Centurions the very best of luck this weekend in their Million Pound Game.
Super League would look good with a team from Leigh in it and their squad could compete at this level.
Their owner Mr. Beaumont has built an amazing team this year and has obvious aspirations to stay around the top tier once they can get into it. Bring it on Leythers’ and we’ll put a crust on it.
I must admit I didn’t watch the GF last Friday.
With a depleted team I always thought that Leeds would struggle.
With Saints getting players back from injury and Knowles escaping a ban, I thought they might post a record GF score.
I just couldn’t force myself to watch them win a fourth consecutive GF.
I did keep tabs on the score via Radio Leeds but at 12-0 I stopped listening.
Overall Saints were the best team in the competition yet again so deserved to be crowned champions.
I just wish we had got to the final as I think we would probably have given them a much harder game and potentially won.
Next season will be interesting with most teams looking to improve their squads and I fully expect Leeds and ourselves to be challenging for honours next season.
The World Cup squad I believe will be announced later this week and with various injuries to some players who would be a shoe in, the squad will be somewhat depleted.
The players who will definitely be in the squad and who I would wholeheartedly agree are, in no particular order, Tomkins, Welsby, Makinson, Hardaker, Percival Williams, Smith, Oledski, Lees, Burgess, Cooper, Sutton, Clark, Batchelor, Whitehead, Bateman, Knowles and Smithies.
I am unsure of availability due to injury but if Lomax, Newman, Thompson and Farnworth are fit and available they will definitely be in the squad.
We are particularly weak and exposed in the backs and it wouldn’t surprise me if someone like Sneyd made the final 24.
That would leave quite a number of places up for grabs and I hope that Roby puts his hand up for the hooking role. He isn’t the player that he was but for me is still by far the best English hooker in the game.
I’ll be honest, after the Morgan Knowles appeal debacle, I was in two minds as to whether to bother watching the Grand Final this year.
I happened to be having one last pint in a local pub on Saturday afternoon after my mate had gone home when a guy at the bar noticed my phone wallpaper was the Wigan crest.
We got chatting and it turned out to be St Helens Hall of Famer Harry Pinner, who kindly invited me over to watch the game with a group of his friends, including Paul Forber, Graham Liptrot and Brian Case amongst others.
So what started as an average Saturday ended in the company of some of the nicest, funniest and most interesting guys you could hope to meet. Lippy even shouted chip butties for everyone.
As for the game itself, I think it went as everyone expected. I always thought Leeds' performance against us was their Grand Final, I didn’t think they could play that well again and so it proved.
Saints were clinical in everything they did with the likes of Roby and Lomax on top form.
Jon Bennison looks solid every time I see him play, another exciting youngster off the St Helens production line.
If it weren’t for Saints, Leeds and Wigan I’m not sure rugby league would continue. Most teams from Super League down to League One have half a dozen players that have come through our youth ranks.
Congratulations then to St Helens and Kristian Woolf who thoroughly deserved their win. It may be boring to watch the same team win the title year after year, unless it’s your team, something we know all about, but it’s up to the rest of the teams in Super League to raise their game.
Woolf has done exceptionally well, albeit with a squad of great depth and talent.
It must have been daunting coming in to replace Justin Holbrook, who had been outstanding, but Woolf has surpassed what even Holbrook achieved.
Looking towards the World Cup Squad announcement, there should be a few representing the Wigan club in the England squad.
I would certainly have John Bateman in the squad, ban or no ban. He has been back towards his best this year and is an aggressive, consistent performer for the full eighty minutes.
Sam Powell is as good as anyone on his day but there is a lot of competition in the hooking role and he will likely miss out having been absent at the back end of the season.
For me Liam Marshall should certainly be in the squad. There is no doubt Makinson will take up one wing role, but Marshall has been as good if not better than any winger in Super League this season. He works so hard, runs the ball up strongly and has scored so many crucial tries for us which shows he is clearly the man for the big occasion.
Harry Smith should also be a part of the squad. He has come on leaps and bounds this year and has developed into a world class goal kicker to boot.
We are not blessed with a lot of quality half backs, and so many contenders such as George Williams, Luke Gale, Jake Connor through poor form, and Lewis Dodd and Jake Trueman through injury, have struggled this year.
Harry has been consistent throughout and leads the team round the field with an excellent kicking game and his defence has proved strong also.
Smithies, Havard and Kai Pearce-Paul will all likely miss out but are good enough that their time will come in the near future.
Saints never looked like losing on Saturday. They got off to a good start and never looked back.
Even though there were only six points in it at half time, it didn’t reflect their dominance, with Welsby and Lomax pulling the strings as usual.
Leeds tried manfully but ultimately it was a game too far.
I didn’t really want Saints to win but I’m glad that Hardaker didn’t pick up a winners medal after the way he disrespected us.
Certainties in the England Team would be Sam Tomkins, Welsby, Lomax, Bateman and Knowles in my opinion.
It should be a good tournament with strong teams outside of the usual favourites of Australia and New Zealand.