Wigan Warriors: The 18th Man - 'New' logo six months on, international call-ups and Leeds predictions...
Our panel of Warriors experts discuss the weekly talking points in and around the camp...
It’s been nearly six months since Warriors launched their new badge... have your thoughts about it changed and, given the choice, would you go back?
Andy Grundy: I must admit I was extremely surprised by the change. I, like thousands of us, have worn the Wigan badge with pride since being a child. Many fans initially voiced their opinion about what they believed was a lack of club consultation and input with them regarding the change, and how they believed that the badge did not represent the town. However, let’s face it, there was never really going to be an easy discussion with a quick resolve on such a contentious issue, and sometimes businesses need to take swift action and a calculated risk, in order to enhance their overall profile in the market, capture new interest and to increase revenue. And I believe this is what the club are trying hard to do. Personally, after taking time to look into the reasons behind it, I now support the change. Although, it would be best advised that the club do monitor accordingly its true impact going forward, which hopefully for the club’s sake, will be a positive one. Fans are now seemingly warming to the new logo, which sits proudly on a new and varied range of quality male and female clothing.
Ste Ford: I still don’t like it and would go back to the Ancient & Loyal in a heartbeat. If they had to change, I think the design we ended up with is poor and they missed a chance in not using the Ancient & Loyal as a base to build from.
Jon Lyon: I’ve definitely warmed to the badge after the initial shock, and it seems a lot of others have too. The Costa logo jokes have faded and the quality kit designs we’ve had this year help accept the badge. In truth it wasn’t that I hated the new badge in the first place, I just loved the old crest. I fully understand the need to increase our marketing potential and the badge surely helps with that. I think my heart still wants the old badge but the head says stick with the new. Whatever is best for the club gets my vote.
Darren Wrudd: Six months! My goodness, where did that go? It does not seem long ago that all the furore developed about the new badge, but I still think it was less about the design and more about the announcement. I quite liked it back then and it has grown on me further since. I am starting to notice more and more people with branded gear on and along with what seems like a marked step up in quality on the apparel available these days, it does seem very popular. The club announcing sales have done really well and that speaks volumes for the new brand. I know many people are still upset about losing the old coat of arms, but it is not really lost and is still a part of the heritage gear and marketing, so I just think we have gained another exciting brand identity on top of what we already had.
England had their first pre-World Cup training session this week... how many Wigan players do you think deserve to be in Shaun Wane’s first-choice team?
Andy Grundy: It’s a tough one. However, Shaun Wane will choose ultimately what he believes is his best 17 players are and who will do a job for England. His record for success at club level, as we all know, speaks for itself, so there is no doubt he will choose his selection of players wisely. But the coach will always come under some scrutiny, especially at international level. It’s understandable there will be fans who have formed potential biased views towards players who represent their own club. That said, I do think the Wigan players selected will all play an important role and will be in the initial 17. Just to add, if one is to go off form, Sam Powell has been unlucky to not make the squad, yet granted there is strong competition for places.
Ste Ford: Subject to injuries, only Bateman is a certainty to get into the final 17. Gildart if he can regain his form is a strong candidate but, for the first time in years, there is some competition for the two centre spots so he may not make the 17. Hardaker has started the season well at FB, but there is no way he will play ahead of Tomkins. Personally, I would go with Farrell in the 17, but I think Elliott, Currie and Bateman will be the starting backrow. Subject to injuries I’m pretty certain all four will be in the squad for the World Cup.
Jon Lyon: Assuming all are fully fit, there’s a great case to be made for many of them. Hardaker should certainly be in the team, ideally at fullback, but if Tomkins is picked then at least at centre. I would have Bateman and Farrell in the team for sure, Faz seems to be at his peak and Bateman is a shoo-in. Gildart and Manfredi will have to have incredible seasons to make the team after such bad injuries and beat the likes of Tom Johnstone, Tommy Makinson, Herbie Farnworth and Mark Percival into the team, but both are talented enough. Sam Powell is incredibly unlucky to miss out on the squad so far and it’s not inconceivable that he, Jake Bibby and, if fit and firing, even Liam Marshall could make their way into the squad by the end of the year.
Darren Wrudd: Bit of a premature question that one, like asking Boris last June, when will the pubs re-open? You simply cannot go from the form of a couple of games. The biggest gripe I have with the England squad, is previous coaches’ decisions to select players for their squad based on previous reputations,and perhaps throw in a token newby to show they can mix it up. Shaun Wane is most open when questioned and states he will choose on form not name tag. So although I would expect certain players to feature, Farrell, Bateman and Hardaker in particular, there is a lot of work to do before that bridge is crossed. Keep your eyes on our prop forwards too, as the final squad may just look very familiar indeed.
Wigan take on Leeds tonight – time for predictions!
Andy Grundy: Any game in Super League is a tough game and Leeds Rhinos this evening will certainly be no exception, although they have reported 10 players missing with injury.
After two games and two losses they will be looking to net their first win, with Leeds fans hoping players such as Kyle Eastmond – who has been included in Richard Agar’s 21-man squad after leaving the club to play rugby union over a decade ago – will inject that something special into the team. And if rumours are correct, he could be pairing up in one of the half-back positions with another highly rated player in Liam Sutcliffe, a player who has also returned to boost the squad, alongside another influential player in Bodene Thompson. Both these players missed the St Helens game through injury and will be expected to play a big part in the game this evening. Adrian Lam will undoubtedly have done his homework, and, from a personal perspective, I would like to see the team marry up the first-half performance with that of the second half, as at the moment we are missing urgency from the off, only really finding momentum after 25 minutes of game time, which could potentially become an issue if not rectified.
Ste Ford: Both teams have the majority of their backline missing so it could go either way. However, I am hoping that after, a tough game against Saints on Saturday, Leeds may struggle to perform well for the full 80 minutes, and I suspect we will nick it late into the game.
Jon Lyon: You look at Leeds’ injuries and, with the halves they still have missing, I can’t see anything other than a Wigan win. Leeds played very well against Saints in the cup, but ultimately a lack of game management and a kicking game cost them, which will still be a problem with no Lui, Gale or Myler. The exciting return of Bevan French to our squad should only increase confidence and, as long as we are focused and don’t count our chickens, it should be a hard fought but ultimately comfortable win. I’ll go for 24-10.
Darren Wrudd: Leeds are having it tough at the moment with many players out. That suits me fine as we also have our gaps in the squad. But our back-up seems to have a much better balance and certainly a better quality of player. The Rhinos played Saints last week without a recognised half back on the field, and so played to their strengths instead. They could easily have won that game but for a better end to their sets, and that mistake won’t happen again. So I think our forwards need to totally dominate their pack both in speed and ferocity or we will get burnt. I think we have the quality to do it and put on a big score too, I am looking at a 30-6 prediction – but a bloody match.