The 18th Man Column: Who I would give a Wigan 'Walk of Fame' star to
Wigan Warriors fans have their say.
How do you reflect on Taulima Tautai’s exit?Jeanette Lusher: I do not have the knowledge with regards to the legalities under his visa to determine whether there was any other choice for either club or player. What I do know is that Taulima has brought the supporters vast amounts of joy and has made many fantastic rugby memories during his time at Wigan. He and his lovely wife have supported the local community and have been so very charitable towards a number of good causes. I am absolutely gutted for Taulima and his family that his career at Wigan has ended on such a very sad note and I pray that the future brings them good health and much happiness. I am most assuredly going to miss that huge smile! Good luck and bon voyage, Taulima!Jon Lyon: Unfortunately following the drink-driving conviction it was inevitable. Unlike Zak Hardaker and Craig Mullen, Tautai’s conviction has left him unlikely to be able to stay in the country regarding his visa, so it seems an early exit is best for all concerned. Hopefully having lost Gabe Hamlin as well, Wigan can now reinforce the pack before the end of the season.It’s a sad end to Tautai’s career at the DW. While never the biggest or most dominant prop, he did improve immeasurably over the five years he was at the club, cutting out, well, reducing at least, the litany of frustrating handling errors we witnessed when he first arrived. His charity and community work should also form a huge part of his legacy, and I wish him well for the future.Darren Wrudd: Taulima Tautai, the latest in a long line of antipodeans who have arrived with such promise and yet never quite reached his potential here. Mr T to many of us fans, Taulima has given so much over the last five years and that is how I will remember him. A bustling, battering forward who, while sometimes a little shall we say impetuous, always ran himself to water for our shirt. The well-publicised manner in which he has left us is such a shame, but perhaps the correct decision which I can only assume was a joint one between the man himself and the club. Balancing a duty of care to players and a disciplinary stance must be most difficult, and once more I think the club has done a fine job in dealing with the situation. Sad to see yet another forward leave us and it certainly puts a little pressure on some others, but the right step and I wish Taulima and his family the very best of luck in his new direction.Robert Kenyon: It’s a shame because he’s got a family to look after and he did a lot for the community while he was here. But on the other hand he was drink driving and there’s no excuse for that, he’s got to take it on the chin. Tautai was very up and down in my opinion during his time here. His first season, he didn’t do too well, his second season was better, and 2017 saw him play his best rugby for the club and was rewarded with an extended contract. In 2018 he did ok and this year, I’ll be honest, has been probably his worst year. All in all it’s just another embarrassing chapter in the club’s recent history. I just hope Tautai learns from it and finds another club in Australia to play for so he can look after his family. With Tautai and Hamlin gone we are two props short and we really need to replace them if we want to win silverware this year.Salford visit tomorrow - confident of victory?Jeanette Lusher: I feel I can be highly confident, if only because Wigan have beaten Salford twice in the league and once in a pre-season friendly already this season. My confidence is further heightened because of the steady improvement on display in our last three games. Another positive indicator of victory is that we are able to put out the same 17 and that there is competition for places. Certainly a new luxury for Lammy! Finally the joy of playing at home and knowing victory will see us climbing up the league table will assuredly motivate the lads. Meanwhile, over at Salford how disruptive has it been, if rumours are to be believed, with all the comings and goings on the player front? I ask myself will they be able to handle all the off-field drama as well as Wigan has had to do on too regular a basis this season? It’s definitely a Wigan win for me!Jon Lyon: This will be a very tough game, with Salford performing well the last few weeks, let down only by their defence on occasion. I expect our new defensive solidity will see us home, with both teams able to score plenty of points.Salford will be out for revenge as we have beaten them twice at their place already this year. Keeping Jackson Hastings and Niall Evalds quiet will be vital. Fortunately our squad is in a relatively healthy state so, with players knowing they have to be at the top of their game to keep their place, I think we will win by a couple of scores in the end.
Darren Wrudd: There is so much at stake here and, with all the hullabaloo over Leeds poaching players because they can’t bring their own through, it might just have an effect on the Salford mindset. I can guarantee they will put up a fight, but our first game at home for some time can only see a Wigan win. If Lui and Hastings are still at Salford, then they will certainly want to show what they can do and this could spell danger. We will need to stay sharp but I am confident we have the measure of them. Robert Kenyon: I said at the start of these five fixtures that we need to win at least three to keep the season alive, five to mount a serious challenge and we have won three from three so far. If we beat Salford we could go fourth, which is bizarre with the start we had to the season. The game is winnable, I just worry about Hastings. If he’s not already signed for us then he’s going to want to put on a show and showcase his skills and he will be hard to handle. It is winnable and, with the momentum we have, a win would put to bed the negativity around the club and there would be a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.Who kicks: Chris Hankinson or Zak Hardaker?Jeanette Lusher: Chris Hankinson for me! His goal kicking is so smooth and appears effortless. Regardless of his goal kicking, though, I certainly feel Chris has done more that enough to warrant a centre spot. His deft hands for a try assist – Tommy Leuluai! His one-on-one tackling – Konrad Hurrell! His backing up of the player in possession – Sean O’Loughlin! For me, Chris will just get better and better if he is given the game time. I feel many supporters who decried his signing are already eating humble pie, and are instead applauding the foresight of the club in securing such a talented player.Jon Lyon: I don’t know who the better kicker is over a full season, but Chris is bang in form and it seems crazy to remove him from the role when he’s doing so well. His performances have warranted his place in the side irrelevant of goal kicking, and I’m looking forward to see him push on with some consistent game time now.Zak has to worry more about keeping his place at full back ahead of Sarge, so it may be best to remove one less worry for him, let him concentrate on getting back to his best.Darren Wrudd: Hankinson should keep the duties for now. If that means Sarginson does not get a game, so be it. But I think Hardaker needs to concentrate on his form and support play without the added pressure of kicking too. Chris has been awesome with the boot but also holds his place on merit. This is what every team needs. A good healthy competition for places and it will not do Sarge any harm to rest up and heal properly.Robert Kenyon: Both are excellent kickers, I think Hankinson has been the most prolific over his career so should carry on with the kicking duties. It makes a hell of a lot of difference having a good kicker in the side converting four to six and they all mount up. It may be how Hankinson stays in the side like Pat Richards did when he took over kicking duties. But Hankinson will need to keep his good form with the boot and in playing to remain in the side, he’s had two good games so needs to carry on that momentum.Shaun Wane got a star on Wigan’s ‘walk of fame’ (joining Billy Boston, Ian Lenagan and Shaun Edwards) – which of the town’s sporting figures would you like to see honoured next?Jeanette Lusher: It has to be Lockers! What a role model he has been throughout his lengthy and exemplary career. An absolute gentleman both on and off the field. Sean has remained faithful to Wigan Warriors and devoted his entire career to the club. Sean’s abilities are recognised by every coach, every player and every supporter in modern day rugby league. Sean’s skills and talent are amazing for he can kick, pass, defend and score. Furthermore he has covered almost every position on the field during his illustrious career. He can read a game like no other and he is a born leader. Sean should be in the “Walk of Fame” for being the astounding Wiganer that he is. Thank you Sean, the people of Wigan owe you so much!
Jon Lyon: For the length of time he spent at the club and the effect he had on the team, dragging them forward single-handedly on many an occasion, I would go for Andy Farrell. He may well be settled in the wrong code of rugby now, but his impact on our club was immense.370 appearances over 15 seasons places him 13th on our all time list and, with six league titles and four Challenge Cup winner’s medals, he certainly lifted a pot or two. 111 tries is pretty special for a forward, and he is second only to the legendary Jim Sullivan for goals and points for our club.Better still was his winning mentality, encouraging his own team when needed, always setting the example himself, and not afraid to fly in to defend his younger team mates if needed, as Paul Sculthorpe found out during one derby! He was an inspiration as a captain, and a true club legend.
Darren Wrudd: Only one for me. Kris Radlinski MBE. A one-club man is rare in any sport, but Kris has shown the highest integrity and dedication to this town of ours for over 25 years. Recognised in 2007 with an MBE after a glittering career at Wigan and international level, he continues to drive the club forward and manages to maintain his own standards while endeavouring to constantly raise those of the players and staff around him. I would be the first to contribute towards a star for Kris if need be as this young man is everything a Wigan sports champion should be and then some.
Robert Kenyon: Maurice Lindsay. He has his critics, especially from the Calder region of Yorkshire, and the Saints fans used to give him some stick, but he was a visionary and a revolutionary for Wigan and the game of rugby league. He’s getting on a bit now so it would be a nice gesture.