Connolly: Fear factor is helping

Darrell Goulding crosses the line against Bradford Bulls
Darrell Goulding crosses the line against Bradford Bulls

WARRIORS legend Gary Connolly reckons he knows the secret behind his old side’s success this year – the fear of failing coach Shaun Wane.

Wigan have recovered from losing their opening game of the campaign against Huddersfield to top the table at the midway point.

They have only lost two matches since the Giants reversal – a two-point loss to Warrington and a single-point defeat to Widnes having fielded an under-strength line-up.

Wigan also have a Challenge Cup semi-final clash with Leeds to look forward to – a repeat of last year’s final that the Warriors edged.

And Connolly expects the cherry-and-whites to prove their dominance when they face his first club, St Helens, at the upcoming Magic weekend.

“I watched both the last Wigan-Saints games on TV and they were close, but Wigan were more powerful and stronger,” Connolly said.

“And I think that has a lot to do with Waney coming in as head coach.

“He’s brought even more fight and aggression to the team.

“I expected him to be successful, because he was assistant to Michael Maguire and I know he looked after the defensive side then.

“I knew he’d step up when he got his chance as head coach, and he’s done that.

“It’s the first time he’s been a head coach, he might make the odd mistake along the way as you’d expect, and he’ll learn from them.

“But everyone wants to play for him and that’s the main thing. If you have that – it’s massive.

“Speak to the Wigan players. They all respect him and they want to win.”

One player, in particular, who has improved under Wane is Darrell Goulding – in Connolly’s old position of right centre.

The GB international rather lost his way last year under Maguire, but has seen his career given a kickstart this term.

“Darrell had success on the wing and played for England there, and it’s nice to see him do so well at centre,” Connolyl added.

“His defence is solid, his attack is good, and Waney’s given him the confidence.

“When I started at centre (having started his career at full-back), no-one told me what to do. You learn by playing more games.

“It’s not as if someone can tell you to play centre – you need time there and you make mistakes and learn from them.

“Waney shown faith in the kid and it’s paying off. When I first started I’d never played there. I was at Central Park against Kevin Iro and the coach came up to me and said, ‘Good luck’.

“I’m sure he gets more coaching than that! But no matter how much coaching you get, the more you play there, the better he’ll get.”

Connolly is now an ambassador for the ‘Joining Jack’ campaign, having been a team-mate of Andy Johnson at Wigan.

Johnson’s son Jack has been born with a rare, terminal illness called Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).

And Connolly said: “If I can do anything, I’m more than happy to do it.”