Talking RL: Reaping the profits from Isa investment

Micky McIlorum went over for two tries, but it was the period without any scoring which was most entertaining
Micky McIlorum went over for two tries, but it was the period without any scoring which was most entertaining

FRIDAY night was one of those strange games, which seemed to get more entertaining once the scoring dried up.

The six-point score margin made it more exciting as full-time approached – why Wigan didn’t go for a drop-goal is beyond me.

But in those conditions, it was never going to be a classic and the important thing for Shaun Wane’s men is they emerged with the win.

And last year was proof in itself how important it is to get points in the bank early on!

Without being at their best, they were good value for the win.

They limited Catalans’ main attacking threats (though the French side shot themselves in the foot with a string of handling errors) and probably should have had one more try on the board, after Josh Charnley’s effort was harshly ruled out.

Luke Robinson in his Wigan days

Luke Robinson in his Wigan days

Dan Sarginson made a successful return from injury, Anthony Gelling was strong and Micky McIlorum terrific.

Interestingly, Sean O’Loughlin was named at prop, but of course these days the modern loose forward plays in the middle anyway.

Indeed, I’d argue O’Loughlin – and maybe Warrington’s Joe Westerman – are the last of the traditional loose forwards; most sides just put a prop in the No.13 shirt.

The move impacted more on John Bateman, who switched from the right-side second-row to a role in the middle, which then allowed Willie Isa to start the game.

And what an encouraging debut he had.

He rushed into tackles with pace and aggression – he clearly has a good engine – and he carried the ball just as strongly.

So many forwards slow down before impact, often with a little step, but he was full-throttle every time.

THE players who missed Wigan’s game last Friday night, played the following day for the reserves.

Oliver Gildart and Greg Burke both impressed Shaun Wane, who travelled to Warrington for the first game of the new competition.

That meant, by Saturday afternoon, Wane had performances to consider.

And if he had suffered injuries the night before – or a particular player had endured an off-day – he could consider making changes.

A year ago, he didn’t have that luxury. Fringe players would have played for Workington on dual-registration on the Sunday.

Wane may have got footage from the game the day or two later - by which point he is already into planning for the upcoming week’s game.

A lot has been said about how the reserves competition is making it fairer for players, but it’s also a lot better for coaches, too.

It’s just a shame Wigan only have eight more reserve games this year. It’s nowhere near enough.

WHEN they’re remaking films you remember first time around (currently, Point Break), you know you’re old. And when fresh-faced Luke Robinson is retiring, well – I feel like it’s time to get my bus pass!

I remember his debut as a teenager, a livewire display against Warrington, and he went on to score a stunning hat-trick in a victory at St Helens.

He also had personality. In fact, he once did the ‘penpix’ for a new season supplement, and they were hysterical.

I remember him rushing out of the dressing room after the opening game, clocking me and saying, ‘Phil, Lockers isn’t pleased with you?’

‘Why?’ I asked.

‘That thing in the paper... saying he looked like Screech from Saved by the Bell.’

‘But you wrote it...’

‘I know. But when he pulled me up about it, I said you made it up!’

It’s often the case that the smallest rugby league players have the biggest hearts, and that was the case with Robinson.

I’d like to think the way he played the game, tough and fair, was what endeared him to Wigan fans much more than ex-players from more than a decade ago.

And he earned everyone’s respect by missing his own stag do to Las Vegas to play for England.

I wish him all the best for the future.

LEIGH chairman Derek Beaumont came in for some stick last Sunday.

Having predicted Leigh would go through the season unbeaten, they came unstuck on the opening day at Batley – leading to the inevitable ridicule from fans.

Because sport is richer for characters and personalities and bold opinions. I’d much rather someone say what they think... even if it does backfire on them.

IN making pre-season predictions, too many people look at the first-choice teams without considering who’s behind them.

But after round one we’ve seen how important it is to have strong squads.

Castleford have lost their captain for the season, Catalans’ hooker will be out for several weeks and a Huddersfield stalwart has retired.