Our 18th man columnists discuss Wigan’s form, Tomkins’ exit and the England squad...
What are your hopes and fears for Saturday’s game at Hull FC?
Robert Kenyon: I’m afraid of getting another good hiding and I think we will. Our discipline is disgraceful and I think it’s because of all the off field events over the past few weeks.
The first try against Wakefield could have been prevented but Gildart and Sam gave up, Jones-Bishop couldn’t believe his luck and nearly fumbled the ball because he thought he’d have been smashed into the advertising boards. The rumours about Bateman going to Canberra ain’t going away and need addressing, I don’t care if the club are waiting for the right moment, there won’t be one, might as well chuck it in with the rest of the bad news. As one of my favourite sayings goes ‘When you’ve got to eat a poop sandwich, it’s best not to chew’. Despite all the doom and gloom we are remarkably in second place. Leuluai’s discipline has been poor, I’m wondering whether he’s been told he’s surplus to requirements as he’s playing like someone who’s head has gone. As much as I like Waney and what he’s done for the club, are the lads really going to take him seriously when he announced he’s leaving so early in the season? They will like him, they will respect him, but they won’t fear him anymore. Normally we would beat Hull, I can’t see it myself this weekend, Big Hull win I reckon.
Sean Lawless: My hopes for Saturday is that Wigan can turn by the clock and galvanise their performance back to the Magic Weekend type display. I am hoping that the extended break the players have had will benefit them and we can get back down to business. My biggest fear is that the players continue to play within themselves and the dip in form becomes a rut.
Jon Lyon: First and foremost I’ll be hoping for a win. Presuming Hull still have a fairly lengthy injury list, and in spite of our recent results, that is what we should be aiming for to get our season back on track. I don’t buy into the doom and gloom merchants wanting Wane out. Maybe it is a coincidence our results have dropped since Wane announced he would be leaving, maybe not, but it doesn’t really matter. What’s done is done. The players have to lift themselves for their own personal pride and pride in the shirt. They, like the fans, should be wanting silverware this season, and they are the ones on the pitch who can do something about it. Next season needs to be put aside and as clichéd as it is, we need to focus on one game at a time, get some aggression back into our game and start throwing the ball about again.
Darren Wrudd: Hopes and fears are two ends of the same seesaw. My hopes are that we settle down and pick back up to the standards and systems that we have done earlier in the season. Stop the panic plays and get on with some well executed rugby league to get another two points towards our total. My fear however is that we will simply react to the onslaught that Hull will for sure throw at us. Showing no shape in attack and yet good scramble defence to waste our energies. That George will go self employed again and run along every defensive line whilst his chargers await a drop off pass as no one knows what he is doing, for he is the key to this side playing well. When young Mr Williams plays for the team, organises the numbers and runs to put others into space we can understand why another England shirt beckons.
David Bailey: My hopes? Honestly? Some fight, some determination, some pride in the shirt is all I’d like to see now. I don’t even care much if we win or lose. I just want to see some effort and desire. Wigan need to get back to basics and remember the team spirit which has seen them do so well in recent times. The players used to put their bodies on the line for their coach and each other but that seems to have disappeared in the last few weeks. My big fear is that nothing has changed and there won’t be any reaction to the last three defeats as the players seemingly drift through the season knowing that Shaun Wane won’t be there next season. It must be unsettling for the players that have recently signed new or extended deals if they weren’t aware of Wane’s intentions and as much as the coach deserves to see the season out on his terms, I can’t see anyone being happy until the losing streak is broken.
What do you make of the England squad for the Test in Denver?
Robert Kenyon: It looks like a good squad but I’d have had Danny Richardson from St Helens, also Harvey Livett in it too. Both of them have flair and in my opinion are the future, both of them I’d say are quite traditional British players who can play off the cuff and haven’t been turned into robots yet. I’m disappointed with the way the Kiwis are treating it, with silence and most of their star players are either injured or have changed allegiance to one of either Tonga or Samoa. I think we will only see how the game is embraced by the Americans when we see what the attendance is. In my opinion a complete waste of time and money, it would have made more sense to play the game in Toronto if we were going to the Americas.
Sean Lawless: I understand the calls for the likes of Danny Richardson etc to make the squad but I feel that Wayne Bennett has picked a good combination of those players who were involved in the World Cup along with a couple of new faces.
Sam Tomkins will be aggrieved to have missed out, but perhaps the events of the past few weeks and performances went against him, although I would expect him to be involved in the series at the end of the season.
Jon Lyon: I’m very happy with the squad chosen for the Denver Test. As usual we have a very good pack that should be able to match the Kiwis, and also plenty of pace in the backs. Hopefully the likes of Ratchford, Percival, Makinson and Connor can maintain their red hot club form and we can see the best of England in attack.
If anyone is lucky to be in the squad it is probably George Williams, as Danny Richardson has been outstanding at St Helens. Maybe Wayne Bennett thinks throwing Danny in at such a young age against a brutal Kiwis pack would be damaging, and George is certainly better defensively. Let’s hope George’s running game is back to its best by then and he repays the faith Wayne has shown in him.
Darren Wrudd: I am surprised at the inclusion of Jake Connor if I am honest. An England shirt should command respect and I for one think that Connor is one of the worst type of players in this game of ours. Always milking a penalty with fake injuries, high tackles seemingly with no regard to opposition welfare and he just never shuts up. As opposed to lads like O’Loughlin, who lead by example and earn their way with hard work rather than stealing their way by winding up the opposition when they are not good enough themselves. Perhaps a few of the others were on the team sheets before form was considered, but we shall see. I am not a fan of this series, sending our best players overseas to a non rugby area mid season to weaken our home sides, whilst the lesser squads like Castleford don’t make the cut and keep their full complement of players.
David Bailey: I think the squad is as expected to be honest. I think George Williams is a little lucky to have been given a place in the team and Sam Tomkins (last three weeks aside) a little unlucky. Jake Connor is probably one of the most unpopular men in Super League but can certainly play. I’ve also seen some comments about Ryan Hall not deserving his place on this season’s form. I think his record speaks for itself though and I’d like to see Makinson get a game. I’m more concerned though, that when Wigan have the rearranged game with Castleford, Wigan will be without three, possibly four players (if Tommy gets called up to the New Zealand side) whilst Cas will be at full strength. Not ideal at all if Cas continue to build momentum.
How will you remember Joel Tomkins?
Robert Kenyon: I remember watching Joel play stand-off for the Under-19s years ago, around 2003 I think it was. I think even then he was really young he was billed as the next best thing on the terraces and he has been a great player in the time he’s been here. When he first came on the scene we were really struggling, he was one of the players still left at Wigan with memories of 2006, and along with Lockers and a couple more who have since left he went on the journey with the club from being rock bottom to winning the Grand Final in 2010, then the trophiess since.
There was a period in his career where he, Gelling and Manfredi tore defences apart with their offload game, that was when he’d come back from union so nobody can say that ruined his game. I’d say the best memory of Joel will be the try he scored in the 2011 Challenge Cup Final, I was there and after he scored it I turned to my brother in law and said, “That will go down as one of the best ever Challenge Cup Final tries”. Joel always seemed to work hard, always tried to bump the first defender off and always first in the back his mates up if there was a scrap. He was what I like in a second rower, that’s a second rower who is capable of playing centre because of the size and agility. I’m disappointed he’s left, it would have been good if he’d have stuck it out because next week nobody will be bothered about ‘the incident’ and Joel will be stuck in Hull (which is bad enough!) away from friends and family, he’d have been better off staying. I wish him all the best at his new club, he’s a player I’ve always liked. Thanks Joel.
Sean Lawless: Joel’s legacy at the moment is understandably tarnished but time’s a great healer. He will be remembered for that try in 2011 no doubt but harshly, he will probably be remembered as Sam’s brother – as that seems to be what he has been referred as, throughout his career! He should be remembered as an excellent Wigan player and a dual code international, not too shabby really!
Jon Lyon: I refuse to let one stupid incident cloud in my mind all that Joel has done for Wigan over the years. He has been an excellent servant during his time at the club, and who can forget that sensational try he scored at Wembley in the 2011 cup final. He has played in several positions for the team and always gave his all.He definitely seemed to have lost some pace after he came back from union, as he had bulked up, but that made him a great addition to our pack with his strength, yet also retaining his handling skills. He has set up some sensational tries with numerous freakish offloads. One mistake shouldn’t define a player’s whole career and I wish him all the best at Hull KR.
Darren Wrudd: Time will tell really, but I would like to remember that awesome try in the Challenge Cup final when he says all he could hear was the wheezing panting of old Jamie Peacock chasing him, so he knew he was in for a try. Also, who remembers the buzz around the stadium at half time, when Mr Lenagan welcomed our ‘new’ signing onto the pitch after smuggling him into the ground so that no one would see. That is the player I will remember long after Twitter or Facebook falls silent. Joel was a great servant to this club and as sad as it is that things ended this way, I will always be grateful for his efforts and commitment. I wish him luck on his journey.
David Bailey: Sadly Joel Tomkins will be remembered for a long time for that video. It’s a shame because in his first spell at Wigan he was quality, with that memorable try in the Challenge Cup final against Leeds probably being the highlight. I’ll remember the excitement surrounding his return to the Warriors and his unveiling on the pitch at half time when Kris Radlinski sneaked him into the stadium but sadly he never hit the heights of his first spell. I hope the move to Hull KR reinvigorates him and he revives his career there. I know that Joe Greenwood is likely to be a replacement for John Bateman rather than Joel but still, the moves this week have in my opinion improved the squad so whilst sad to see Tomkins leave, it will be great to see how Greenwood fares. I do wonder though who is pulling the strings with signings.