Talking RL: Retaining Joe Burgess is as good as recruiting a star player

Some new arrivals.

Thursday, 9th May 2019, 3:44 pm
Joe Burgess has scored 10 tries in his seven matches this season

Three words before last Thursday’s match excited fans much more than the 80 minutes which followed.

Ian Lenagan says Wigan are not only trying to tie down their coaching team for 2020 – Adrian Lam remains favourite – but working hard on securing some new signings and retaining off-contract players.

Jackson Hastings is one target, presumably as a replacement for Canberra-bound George Williams.

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If you’ve not seen Hastings, he’s good.

Very good.

Too good for Salford.

One of those rare halfbacks who makes those around him look better; one of those opposition players you watch and think, ‘I’d pay to watch him play’.

I hope Wigan manage to secure his signature.

Another target is Castleford prop Mitch Clark.

Wigan’s three most recent defeats – to Cas’, Wakefield and St Helens – exposed a weakness in the heart of the Warriors side.

The Warriors have some good props – Ben Flower, Joe Bullock especially – and some potential (Olly Partington, Liam Byrne... and Ethan Havard has impressed me for the Under-19s).

But they’re lacking something that even the return of Tony Clubb from injury won’t fill; someone with a more physical presence to dominate down the middle.

I hope Clark is that recruit. He really impressed against Wigan, eating up metres for his side, and at 26 his best years seem ahead of him.

Recruiting stars usually excites fans more than retaining existing ones, but the news Joe Burgess is close to extending his stay will be widely welcomed.

Budgie has reminded us all this season what he is capable of, he’s come back from injury looking sharper and quicker than before, and his lethal combination with centre Oliver Gildart

borders on the telepathic at times.

The best homegrown centre-wing combo to play for Wigan? I’d make a case. And Burgess would not have been short of offers elsewhere.

There’s been a lot of negative news swirling around the club this year, from Shaun Edwards’ U-turn to off-field dramas to on-field losses.

Someone even joked the communications manager is favourite for the Steve Prescott Man of Steel! But this is a huge boost for the club, with the promise of more recruits – and retentions – to follow.

Josh Ganson has moved on. It was the right decision for all parties.

He was among a dozen players too old for the Under-19s who have been playing on dual-registration or loan in the Championship and League One.

In fairness, Wigan kept many on expecting there to be a reserve competition this year, before those hopes collapsed on the eve of the new season.

When injuries bit into Lam’s squad, he handed debuts to teenagers with squad numbers 38, 39 and 41.

Number 40 (Harry Smith) was 18th man once.

But some players with squad numbers ‘higher up the pecking order’ – 26, 28, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34 and 35 – have not figured at all. Some, for good reason (Jack Wells, injury). But when the

academy’s Amir Bourouh was clearly the ‘next in line’ hooker ahead of Ganson, it seems smart to release him now.

Wigan turn their focus to the Challenge Cup this weekend.

They will be the underdogs but I give them a chance, mainly because – Good Friday aside – they’ve been in every game they’ve played this year.

Adrian Lam seems to have restored some pride to their defence. Now he just needs to marry it with a flashy attack.

With Warrington in the Cup and at Anfield two weeks later, sandwiching the Nou Camp showdown with Catalans, it’d be a good time to find their rhythm.

It makes for an intriguing tie and the eyes of the sporting world will be on the HJ this Sunday afternoon.

Except they won’t. Because the most attractive tie of this Challenge Cup round has been scheduled at the same time as the final day of the Premier League season when Liverpool and

Manchester City duel for the title. The BBC will show Championship club Bradford against Leeds on Saturday. You shake your head at times...

Dave Furner was “an outstanding candidate... my first choice” to be Leeds coach, said director of rugby Kevin Sinfield on Tuesday.

If he thinks sacking Furner is the right decision, so early into his first year in charge, what does it say about his abilities to choose the right coach in the first place?

Meanwhile, who will replace him?

Shaun Wane would seem to have the kit-bag to fix the Rhinos’ problems but is also content with the roles he now has with Scotland RU and his business interests.