SHAUN Wane reckons Michael McIlorum is close to challenging James Roby as the best hooker in Super League.
St Helens No.9 Roby is universally respected for his class and work-rate.
And Wane believes McIlorum is coming into the same bracket following a vintage display in the 20-6 victory against Leeds last Saturday.
McIlorum was included in the England squad for last years Four Nations but never got into the side ahead of Roby.
Wane said last night: “That’s the challenge for Micky – and he’s not far off.
“I wouldn’t have anyone other than Micky in my team,
“I rate him that highly.
“He’s a tough, uncompromising hooker and the good thing is he still has areas to improve, such as delivery and speed, that he’s working on.
“I only see him getting better and better. It’s good from an England point of view that they have two exceptional players in a key position.”
Hat-trick winger Josh Charnley took the Sky Sports and club sponsors man of the match prizes last weekend, but McIlorum won the coaches and players honour.
“He was unbelievable against Leeds,” added Wane. “We have a man of the match, all the staff do it, and you pick your 1,2,3 of who played well. I put Micky in all three, I thought he was that good.
“The key to it is hard-work, he comes knocking on my door asking, What can I do? How can I get better?
“It’s enjoyable as a coach to see a player with as much desire as he has.”
McIlorum was forced to retire from the action on the hour-mark with a back injury but Wane reports he will be fine for Sundays trip to Bradford. Steve Ganson is referee.
PROP Tom Spencer, who debuted for Wigan against Leeds last Saturday, is set to join Leigh on a dual-registration. Wane has been impressed with the 21-year-old during pre-season and hopes a spell in the Championship helps accelerate his development even further. The dual-registration allows him to switch between the two clubs on a week-to-week basis, at Wigans discretion.