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The 18th Man Column: Bateman is tougher than a cheap steak

Dom Manfredi made a super return last weekend
Dom Manfredi made a super return last weekend

Wigan Warriors fans look at this week's rugby league topics

Players have been voting for the Steve Prescott Man of Steel – who do you think deserves to win the

coveted award?

Robert Kenyon: For me it was Ben Barba nailed on up until the Challenge Cup semi-final when the bottom fell out of Saints’ season. He was running away with the trophy, but he fell flat on his face before the finish line.

Sam Tomkins started the season just average but has grown into the season putting in great performances and being the difference in big games.

John Bateman should be in with a shout too, he is the rugby equivalent of a hobnob in a biscuit dunking competition. He’s stronger than a can of ‘Breaker’ and tougher than a cheap steak.

However, James Roby has had a great season and thoroughly deserves to win the trophy, so I think they should all vote for Trent Barrett.

Sean Lawless: There seems to be strong cases for a lot of players this year since the form of Ben Barba has dropped off. The likes of Paul McShane, James Roby and even Stefan

Ratchford have all been consistent performers for their clubs this year.

But, with cherry and white tinted glasses it has to be between Sam Tomkins and John Bateman.

Tomkins has been the consistent creative and leadership force in the Wigan side this year and has emphasised how big of a miss he will be in 2019. Bateman likewise is showing his class, he is player than doesn’t seem to excel at any one aspect of the game but is excellent at everything at the same time! For me, Bateman or Tomkins.

Jon Lyon: The truth is there are very few stand out candidates.

The early front runners of Ben Barba and Mark Percival have been decidedly ordinary the last few months, Barba in particular becoming a revolving door in defence for St Helens. James

Roby now seems to be the favourite, but that is more for consistency than for being exceptional.

Bill Tupou and Paul McShane have had good seasons but have they been by far the best players in the league? Not noticeably.

As biased as it will seem coming from a Wigan fan, Sam Tomkins and John Bateman have probably been the most outstanding and have shown a tremendous will to win even when those around them haven’t always been at their best. It’s hard to remember a game where I didn’t think one or the other was man of the match. If it was my choice I would give it to Bateman, for

punching above his weight, literally.

I suppose it’s too late to cast a vote for Dom Manfredi...

Darren Wrudd: This year there are a few candidates who stand out as man of steel potential.

Remi Casty would possibly get my vote as he has shown consistently how a prop forward should go about his business, but you could include Tony Clubb in that category too.

But I think that as a true grit kind of player, who shows up every week and plays at the highest level giving his team a distinct advantage it would have to be James Roby.

I know, its an awful thing to nominate one from over the hill, but he has been brilliant once more and shows the way to any young hooker coming into the professional game.

David Bailey: I think I am right in saying that the voting for the Steve Prescott Man of Steel is for rounds 1-23 of the season.

With that in mind Ben Barba would be the red hot favourite for the award despite his lapse in form over the past couple of months since his apparent agreement to go back to the NRL was reached.

It’s perhaps ironic that Barba is the current incumbent of the Saints fullback jersey and when you look at the characteristics of the man the award was named after, Barba has very few.

Steve Prescott was the epitomy of toughness both on and off the field and fought every step of the way. Whilst video footage of Barba mocking the Hull fans (again ironically another side

Prescott served with distinction) just shows the character of the man. I think the likes of James Roby and John Bateman are more deserving candidates for what the award stands for and I’d plump for Bateman given his form this year.

Should winning the league leaders’ shield receive more kudos and, if so, how can that be achieved – without distracting from the Grand Final?

Robert Kenyon: First and foremost, make the trophy look attractive for God’s sake. Someone had the bright idea that instead of actual good looking trophies that people want to win, they thought shields and cardboard cut outs like the World Club Series/Challenge was the way to go. Increase the prize money secondly and make it so the winner goes straight to the Grand

Final with 2 playing 3 at home to get to the final.

Sean Lawless: I think the 2019 structure adds weight to the winning of the league leaders shield already, the fact that finishing top will once again ensure that you are only one game from the Grand Final and with a second chance should you fail on that first attempt. Perhaps a better trophy may be a better visual impact for the league leaders rather than a hub cap!

Jon Lyon: The LLS should absolutely be the most coveted trophy. In truth the Grand Final is nothing more than a glorified Premiership that we used to have to round the season off before

Super League, which often teams weren’t that bothered about after the league and Challenge Cup had finished. Such is the need for drama and a climax to the season, it has now overtaken winning the league as the ultimate prize.

Being consistently the best team over 30 rounds is by far the hardest challenge and the team that tops the table should be suitably rewarded, but I honestly don’t know how to do that without taking anything away from the Grand Final. Now that it is here and is our showpiece event, for marketing purposes it needs to be the be all and end all. Only increased prize money

can really give the league leaders any further reward, or an extra marquee player spot for the following season perhaps.

Darren Wrudd: The League Leaders’ Shield should be given much more kudos than it is.

To finish top of the tree in a sport as hard as ours is a great feat of consistency and endeavour. The big issue though of detracting from the Grand Final is a non-starter for me. The game should be celebrated in all its facets and shouted from the roof tops.

So make a huge statement about finishing top and then the Grand Final will be built on top of the hype. Anything to promote and publicise our sport should be encouraged.

David Bailey: I don’t think you can add more credibility to one competition without devaluing the other. As long as Sky are around the Grand Final will always take precedence over the regular season.

There is more money for winning the League Leaders Shield than the Grand Final, however clubs generate more income off the back of a win at Old Trafford. I think that Super League have missed a trick though as by putting the league leaders straight into the Grand Final and having second play fifth and third play fourth, with the winners playing off for the other Grand Final spot would have given teams more of an incentive to top the table.

Wigan have two games before the semi-finals. Do they just need to tick along or have they anything to address before then?

Robert Kenyon: We have to address our poor attack, the players seem so scared to give offloads and are just going in for the percentages and set completions.

I think people forget that fans attend games to be entertained and we pay the wages, nobody comes away from the game waxing lyrically about set completions and winning the ruck.

The fans are voting with their feet as there are more and more empty seats every game. I want to be entertained with some good rugby, anyone who watched Penrith v Cronulla or Souths v St George last week will agree that even when you focus on having a very good defence you can still play good attacking rugby.

George Williams seems to have something on his mind because he’s a shadow of his former self, he doesn’t seem to be having the same impact when running at the line as he once did.

I’d like to see George perk up a bit and recapture that form, he’s an exciting player to watch but it seems he’s not his usual self. I’d like to see Sammy Kibula in the mix too, he’s a big strong lad who can break the line and has a good offload game too, he could be the difference in a tight game if he came off the bench.

Sean Lawless: I think Wigan need to use Thursday to rest any bodies that need resting and then use the Hull game as a quarter-final type match. Wigan need to win one game to ensure they have a home semi-final and I think the home game one week before the semi-final needs to used for that.

If Sam Tomkins or Thomas Leuluai have any niggling injuries, then tonight is the prime time to give them a rest! Following that, I would like to see a consistent side from the Hull game into the finals series.

Jon Lyon: Firstly we hope to avoid any further injuries while seeing the likes of Farrell, O’Loughlin and Flower return.

To do that though we have to play at our best, as anything less than 100 per cent effort is more likely to result in injuries occurring.

Our forwards have been so dominant in our last few games and we need to keep that intensity building in defence and find a way to give Williams as much freedom in attack as possible.

If we keep everyone fit and playing as we have, we have every chance of sending Wane et al off in the best way possible at Old Trafford.

Darren Wrudd: Tick along! Good grief how best to get a battering by trying to tick along.

We should build each week on the form and performance until Old Trafford when we peak for 80 minutes.

I know that if we secure second spot this week, certain players will be rested and that comes with the territory of managing our assets, but the ones that step in need to keep the

momentum and that winning habit alive.

David Bailey: The Warriors cannot rest on their laurels despite beating each of the other semi finalists in the Super 8s.

Whilst the scoreline against Warrington looked impressive, it was still a close game until the last 10 minutes. There are still a few unanswered questions with regards to the lineup for the semi final.

With returns looking likely of Ben Flower and Sean O’Loughlin, Joe Greenwood’s availability as well as a possible return for Liam Farrell, Wane will need to find out what combination gives him the strongest pack.

The backline picks itself following the injuries to Marshall, Burgess and Hankinson and Escare seems to be the Warriors secret weapon against tiring defences. I am not too sure that Hull will provide the sternest of tests in the final round though so Shaun Wane has to decide if he wants freshness or continuity in anticipation of a probable semi final against Castleford.