Wigan Warriors- The 18th man: ‘Maurice Lindsay is a true legend of Wigan and the sport as a whole’
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It is always a difficult time to watch your team when the club decides to rotate the squad to such a degree as we saw last week.
Saints took some real flak for it a few weeks ago and whilst I think we all more or less understand the planning, we just want our team to win.
Matty Peet quite rightly stated that we had enough on the field to challenge Huddersfield, but under performance from some of the senior names left us woefully under gunned at times.
It was a real credit to the fantastic energy of youth that we were so close for so long and we have some sparkling talent coming through again in Matty Nicholson who played Johnny on the spot, backing up to get two important tries.
I could see a real vision from young Logan Astley too, not frightened of taking on the line and playing with his eyes up, scanning for direction. So there were some real positives to take from the game.
The danger this week though is two fold. Hull FC are no easy beat in 2022, with some very talented players in the ranks.
Some to watch out for are the obvious villain Jake Connor. Capable of unpicking any side but thankfully often his own.
A bit of a curate's egg of a player but the ‘good in parts’ bit can be very good indeed. I always think of him as a bit of a pantomime character and expect boo’s from all the kids each time he takes to the field.
Add to that a forward pack who are built for route one, bashing it up the middle with some clever back rowers like Jordan Lane and you have to be on your game or risk getting steam rolled.
The outside backs are no slouches either with Darnell McIntosh on the edge, so all in all a real proposition to face up to the week before a final and there is the other danger.
We simply cannot afford to go into this game half cocked, protecting oneself for next week with one eye on the cup.
That kind of distraction will ruin us for the next fortnight and simply cannot be allowed to happen. We have a job to do first and the two points are important. Let's secure those and then we can think on.
I also see the club has announced this week the passing of legend of the game Maurice Lindsay.
Our club historian Keith Sutch has written a wonderful list of the achievements and accolades of him on the Wigan Warriors website, which is well worth reading.
He did so much for this club and was a great part of the modern day expansion of our game. I would like to offer my condolences to his family and friends at this very difficult time.
The defeat to Huddersfield left mixed feelings. On the one hand, to get as close as we did with half the first choice team out shows the game was there to be won had we gone with a more experienced side.
It feels like two points squandered in some respects. On the other hand, if we win the cup final in two weeks having given many of our players a rest, no one will remember this defeat.
If we’d have played a full strength side and lost one or two players to injury, Matt Peet would have been criticised for not resting them, sometimes the coach just can’t win either way.
Although some of the tries we conceded were disappointing, there was plenty to enjoy during the game. It’s always good to see young lads make their debuts, and both Astley and Nicholson will be all the better for the experience.
Both Halsall and Miski improved yet again and Thornley looks like the centre we’ve been missing, a rare breed nowadays who actually looks to create for their winger.
The result will have no bearing on the cup final. If anything we can be boosted by how close we came in the second half, our young side showing great spirit to fight back as they did.
I expect most rested players will return for Saturday’s trip to Hull. We will need a full strength pack to take on the huge Hull forwards, although the league’s worst haircut in the form of Brad Fash will be missing for the black and whites.
While the main concern will be to come through the game injury free, we could do with winning this one. It wouldn’t do our confidence much good to go into the cup final on the back of two defeats.
As always the man to watch will be Jake Connor. Who knows which of his personalities will turn up, he’s either almost unplayable or a complete liability. Hopefully we can get in his face, antagonise him to the point he’s distracted, which happens all too often.
I can see us having too much for Hull, with the likes of Cust, Field, Bateman, Farrell and Marshall reinvigorated and everyone playing for cup final places. After an early forward battle I expect us to ease away in the second half, 22-12.
The final words this week are deservedly about Maurice Lindsay. I was lucky enough to start watching Wigan in 1985, and the success over the next ten years was an absolute dream as a fan, something unlikely to be seen ever again.
Lindsay, along with fellow businessmen Tom Rathbone, Jack Hilton and Jack Robinson took control of Wigan following relegation and turned them into not only the dominant force in English rugby league, but also World Champions and a household name worldwide.
It is tiresome to hear opposing fans complain we were the only full-time team so it’s no wonder we won so much.
Well, it was only the foresight and daring of Lindsay et al that put Wigan in that position. Any other club could have done the same, but none did. The rest is history.
There have been few individuals who have had such an impact on our game. Maurice Lindsay is a true legend of the Wigan club and the sport as a whole.
The defeat to Huddersfield for me was a clumsy error strewn game. For the first 20 minutes or so both us and Huddersfield looked like neither side wanted to score, fumbling near the line and making basic errors.
I suppose changing the team around so much and players on the fringes trying too hard to do well to get into the team for the final made that happen.
I'm not reading too much into the game, we won the week before is all that matters and the last thing we wanted is to go and paste Huddersfield, give them some good coverage for their video sessions for the final and give them more of a chance.
So I'm kind of glad we played poorly and got beat. For Hull FC this week all I want from the game is no bans, no injuries and a little bit of momentum building for the final, not fusses about the result I just want a good performance, players to know their role, gel and click and push on for the final.
The word legend gets bandied around a lot but when it comes to Maurice Lindsay he is a rugby league legend.
He helped transform Wigan from a struggling club and turned us into a household name.
There will no doubt be a few people who didn't benefit from Maurice Lindsay’s involvement in the game but on the whole he was great for Wigan and for Rugby League, take Super League and the switch to Summer rugby for example.
In fact I was calling for him to be inducted into the hall of fame in this column years ago, now he's passed away I think it's certainly time he was. For me Rugby League needs more Maurice Lindsay’s, if it did it would be in a far better place.
The defeat at Huddersfield wasn’t surprising as obviously had quite a few players “rested” however, the poor defence on the right flank was particularly worrying and unless this is sorted before the Challenge Cup final with Huddersfield then we will have some severe issues a week on Saturday.
The high point for us was the debut of Nicholson together with Miski’s performance, who had his best game for us so far this season.
Unsurprisingly French was quiet throughout the majority of the game and for me is still some way off being fully fit.
We have now lost to all of the other sides in the top four albeit all away but I think it probably reflects where we are as a team when compared to the top sides in the competition.
Not a disaster but still a little disappointing.
We have got a good record at Hull and I’m expecting a win but to achieve that I think we will have to play the same squad that defeated Saints with the exception of Ellis who will be suspended for the game. I suspect Partington will be a straight swap for Ellis.
Hopefully there are no players carrying a knock that may make them unavailable because I want the first choice team to work on their defence and attacking moves in what will be a physical and tough game prior to the final.
Hull on paper have a decent pack and will give us a good testing prior to our biggest game of the season thus far.
Playing on the Saturday gives the squad nine days to recover from the Huddersfield game which I think has fallen quite nicely for us.
Following the news about Maurice Lindsay he was one the most influential people to ever have been involved in Rugby League and as a Wigan fan I was always appreciative of how he managed us from the dark days to unbelievable success in the 80s and 90s.
A very charismatic and forward thinking man who probably deserved more accolades than he actually received.
I was fortunate to meet him a few times and he was always very open and an extremely polite man.
One time at a Haydock Friday night meeting I had gone all night without a winner. For the last race I approached Maurice at his bookies pitch and asked him to name the winner of the last race.
He duly obliged but when I foolishly tried to place the bet with him he pointed me to the bookie next door. The horse came home first at 7/2. Nice on Maurice!