Ahead of Warriors’ game at Millwall’s The Den tomorrow, we look back at 10 random places Wigan have played outside of the game’s heartland...
Wigan have won the Challenge Cup more than anyone else - so they’re no strangers to Wembley. They also had annual trips to the capital when the Broncos were in the top-flight, playing them at venues including Fulham’s Craven Cottage, Charlton’s The Valley, Brentford’s Griffin Park and Harlequins’ The Stoop. But going further back, in 1932, a crowd of 10,000 turned out to White City Stadium to watch them tackle Leeds in “London’s first public floodlit football match”, and in 1955 they were involved in the ITA Trophy at Woolwich Stadium. Trips to London have not always been to play league - in 1996 they played at Twickenham twice, first winning the Middlesex Sevens and then facing Bath in the second of a cross-code challenge.
Depressing statistic: Wigan have played St Helens four times in Cardiff since the turn of the century, and yet to win a game. All the matches have been staged at the imposing Millennium Stadium. Mike Gregory’s final game as coach ended in a Challenge Cup defeat in 2004, and the venue later staged three Magic Weekends. The closest Wigan went to victory was in 2011, when the defending champions drew 16-16 with Saints on the opening round of the season.
The birth of the Grand Final concept in 1998 allowed Super League to tinker with the domestic campaign, introducing an ‘on the road’ weekend for all the clubs. Wigan took on St Helens at Swansea in front of 8,572 fans, and came away with an impressive 36-2 win featuring two tries from Kris Radlinski. A few years earlier (1990-91) Wigan had been beaten 24-8 by Widnes at the Vetch Field.
Arguably the most random place on the list. Wigan didn’t just play in USA - they played in Milwaukee, in America’s mid-west. A crowd of nearly 18,000 watched the match at a baseball stadium, as a star-studded Wigan side beat Warrington 12-5. It was a friendly in name, but not in nature, and there were few attacking chances on a narrow pitch.
There is YouTube footage of a Wigan game against Warrington in 1934 at Shelbourne Park, which shows a bumper crowd watching the Cherry and Whites triumph 32-19. And Wigan beat Leeds 45-20 in the 1995-96 Charity Shield at the Royal Showground.
ISLE OF MAN:
The Isle Of Man’s Douglas Bowl staged the Charity Shield for four years in the mid-80s and Wigan were twice visitors. They won the prize in 1985-86, beating Hull KR 34-6, and lost to Widnes 20-14 in 1988-89.
Catalans occasionally take matches out of their Perpignan home. They took a game against Warrington to Barcelona, while in 2012 they switched their match against Wigan to Montpellier – a two-hour drive away. The new venue was no less picturesque, though, as bad weather put a bit of a dampener on the game as Wigan ran out 36-14 winners.
Sure, it’s in the north of England – even on the M62 belt – but no-one would class Liverpool as rugby league territory. If football is a religion in the city, then Anfield is one of its cathedrals. More than 20,000 fans turned out to watch Wigan face Australian side Penrith in the 1991 World Club Challenge. Sam Panapa and David Myers scored Wigan’s only tries, but six goals from Frano Botica – and a Joe Lydon drop-goal – secured a 21-4 triumph. Wigan also faced Widnes at Liverpool FC’s home ground in 1989-90, losing 27-22. And sticking with the north west, Wigan have also played at nearby Bolton (Burnden Park) and, of course, Manchester on numerous occasions over the years.
Long before Gateshead Thunder were brought into Super League, the city hosted rugby league. Wigan played there in consecutive years in the Charity Shield (1991-92, 92-93), beating Hull FC 22-8 and losing 17-0 to St Helens respectively. Wigan were back up to the north east earlier this year for the Magic Weekend at St James’s Park, full-back Matty Bowen scoring two tries as they beat Leeds 27-12 in a memorable headlining game.
The Radlinski final, the Magic Weekend... but who remembers the regular Super League game played in the Scottish capital? It was 1999 and Gateshead Thunder had been brought into the top flight. They took a match to Edinburgh’s Tynecastle, home of Hearts FC, and a squad featuring future Warriors Brian Carney and Willie Peters registered their most impressive win, beating champions Wigan 20-16.