The 18th Man Column: Job done – now let’s go for the whitewash over Kiwis

Our 18th Man Panel have mixed feelings about the prospect of Magic Weekend being moved to Anfield
Our 18th Man Panel have mixed feelings about the prospect of Magic Weekend being moved to Anfield

Wigan Warriors fans answer this week's rugby league questions

Wigan’s fixtures are out - happy with the order? (Anything stand out, highlights, disappointments.)

John Lyon: I’m reasonably happy with the way the fixtures have panned out. While it’s a great fixture in theory to start the season, playing Saints first game, and on a Thursday night is disappointing. I’d much rather this game be played to its full potential a bit later in the year when both teams are less rusty. A Thursday night in January is not ideal for attracting the full house this fixture deserves. It’s a tough start to the year, when you add in the World Club Challenge too, but an exciting one, and after what will be over three months without a Wigan game, it’s one that can’t come round soon enough.

Darren Wrudd: Well what a way to open the new season, go and fetch two points home from St Helens and then smash Leeds Rhinos at home, followed by our chance to earn our fifth star as World Club Champions against the fantastic Sydney Roosters. Now that would show some intent for 2019! All three of those offer a mouthwatering start to the season with almost a baptism of fire for Adrian Lam. I think he should have the measure of our squad though and certainly knows what that first game means to us all. A highlight for me will be to see London back in the competition. I have enjoyed many trips down to watch our boys in the capital and will do so again. A proper day out and one for the diary.

Robert Kenyon: On paper we get off to a good set of fixtures with Saints, Leeds, Sydney Roosters and Hull FC. It’s just a shame it will be freezing cold and the season opener is on a Thursday. I reckon the attendance for those mouth watering fixtures will be very low. I’m so glad that they’ve scrapped the Super 8s, with the fixtures as they are and with the long awaited inclusion of London Broncos (I’m a big fan of London Rugby League) it’s like a blast from the past to the halcyon days of common sense in rugby league.

Sean Lawless: I really like that the fixtures are tailored to give a big start to the season with Wigan playing St Helens and Leeds followed by the Roosters game. The excitement that generates before the season can really be harnessed by the use of the derby fixtures to start the season, so well done to Super League - great marketing to start the year! The Nou Camp trip, yet to be finalised, is the obvious stand out in the fixture list.

David Bailey: Welcome back to Wigan Lammy! Saints away, Leeds at home then the Roosters at home certainly means the Warriors need to hit the ground running. That could define the season really. Win all three and everyone’s happy. Lose all three and the pressure will be cranked up a notch. That being said though, the rest of the season looks evenly balanced with no “tough runs” on paper. Saints away at round one really stands out as a massive game and it looks like Super League have got it right. Only a couple of Thursday games so far too and none against local rivals means attendances shouldn’t suffer too much. I guess the only unknown now is whether Wigan will play at the iconic Camp Nou against Catalans.

Anfield staged the second Test - would you be happy to see Magic Weekend there? (BTW - it will be!)

John Lyon: I’ve always enjoyed Newcastle as a Magic Weekend host and would have preferred the event to stay there. Anfield may be handier for some fans to get to but I’m not sure Liverpool as a city will embrace the occasion as much as Newcastle did.

With the Challenge Cup semi finals rumoured to be given to Newcastle, as compensation presumably, this seems a disastrous decision. How many fans will travel all that way for the double header, especially if their club is not involved? If the RFL aren’t happy with the number of fans we had for six or seven games in a weekend in Newcastle, why would they think enough would go for two?

Darren Wrudd: We sat in the main stand for the second test, only the second time we had been to the ground. The first was to watch a footy game (I know, we won fabulous tickets), which was possibly the best corporate experience I have ever known at a sports match. Exquisite facilities and big comfy seats with an amazing atmosphere as the Kop ramped up to full voice. At the Test Match, we sat in the middle of the main stand and had noticeably less legroom than we are used to at the DW but still managed perfectly fine and enjoyed the game. The facilities were superb and the ground itself feels like a class above what we are used to, even two classes above if you count Wakefield, so I would certainly be happy if the Magic Weekend is booked there.

Robert Kenyon: I’ve never been to Anfield but I’d love to go, I’ll definitely be going to Magic Weekend without a shadow of a doubt. With Liverpool just down the road, if there are any new fans attending from Liverpool they’re not too far away. If their kids fancy playing there are teams close by and a club in Liverpool too - Liverpool Lions. The only gripe I have with Magic Weekend is what is the legacy of the weekend? So we put on a show for a few years on the bounce in Newcastle and then disappear into the long grass. If we are going to move Magic Weekend to another venue it should be part of a plan to grow rugby league in that area using Magic Weekend as the centrepiece. With Anfield hosting, I just hope the RFL will be pushing RL in the local schools.

Sean Lawless: As someone that now lives in the North East, I am gutted that Magic Weekend has been seemingly taken away from Newcastle mainly from a selfish reason that is was the quickest game I got home from all year! I have read some really good reviews from those who attended the second Test, saying that they can see Anfield working well as a Magic venue, my only issue being its locality from the city centre and being a Manchester United fan - the likelihood of burning into a million pieces upon entering the stadium!

David Bailey: On the one hand I think it’s great that Magic is moved around, but moving the game to football strongholds just doesn’t cut it for me. Apparently there is a marathon around Anfield on one of the days too... what could possibly go wrong? I just don’t think Anfield is the right location for the festival of rugby Magic has become.

England have won the Test series - what impressed you about Sunday, and what do you want to see from the third Test?

John Lyon: Sunday was one of the best Test matches I’ve seen in a long time. Two teams going at each other for 80 minutes with plenty feistiness and aggression and some outstanding attacking rugby. Makinson was the obvious stand out with Lomax, Connor, Whitehead and Luke Thompson also showing up superbly.

There will be a few changes for the final Test with Burgess rightly banned for his eye gouge, and Tomkins and Clark injured. New Zealand will be desperate to avoid a whitewash but the commitment to defence from England’s players will, I think, see us home for a 3-0 series win.

I’m very much looking forward to seeing Jake Connor wind up pretty much everyone on the pitch again, referee included. I can take or leave Richie Myler, never an international player for me, but Joe Greenwood and Ratchford deserve their chance. More of the same please.

Darren Wrudd: Structure, that’s what we showed alongside the new toughness that we had on display in the first test. More attacking kicks to put the Kiwis on a back foot and attackers lined out with depth on the play, ready to react and adapt to whatever happens next. I really enjoyed that, I think it showed a growing understanding from the squad of what we need to perform like if we are to be taken as a serious threat. Add to that a desire to defend and you have a winning formula. For the final test, I want a whitewash. A 3-0 series to send them home with a memory of just how hard a team we are. It would be great to give an extra player or two a chance to shine, perhaps Ratchford would be good to see run at full back, but whoever pulls on the shirt I feel that as a national team, we have turned a corner and a new era begins.

Robert Kenyon: With Internationals, it always gives me the chance to take my Cherry and White tinted glasses off and see Saints players for what they are and out of all the team I was mightily impressed with Luke Thompson and Tommy Makinson, also Hull FC player Jake Connor. Makinson delivered on the big stage, there aren’t many who can take their club form and then step-up when it comes to the big games, he’s been given his chance and took it with both hands. I like Luke Thompson, the lad’s got an engine like a Honda 90 motorbike, just doesn’t pack in. And Jake Connor, despite being able to start a fight with his own shadow when he plays Super League (and he’s my most hated player), stepped up to the plate this series and shown what he can do without all the silly stuff, or at least a little less of the silly stuff... or at least the silly stuff not against my team. Out of the Wigan contingent, George Williams looks to be playing with confidence and off the cuff which suits his style, Sam has been pulling the strings at 7 and is showing he’s world class in that position. Bateman is harder than a billy goat’s knee and Gildart could find space if he was stuck in a phone box with Nigel Wood.

Sean Lawless: I have tipped New Zealand to win both test matches, I didn’t think England had a chance! What a great performance the second test was and what a great game, the biggest thing that pleased me was the performance of the Super League players. Elliot Whitehead was exceptional, as he has been in both games, both Makinson, Connor, Lomax and Williams were all outstanding. I would really like to see Bennett give the same team another shot, I don’t want to see rotation of giving people caps, I want to see England go for the whitewash.

David Bailey: I think England have now got enough big game players to compete with the very best regularly. The main asset lately has been composure and not panicking. When the game was drawing to a close and still in the balance England stuck to completing sets and concentrating without the ball.

It was a real team effort and everyone played their part. I hope England can finish the job and complete a whitewash. International RL is vital to the success of the sport and growing the game away from the heartland countries and it would be great for the country to have a team to be proud of.