The 18th man column: ‘Manfredi’s display was one of the greatest Grand Final stories’

Wigan celebrate Grand Final glory. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com
Wigan celebrate Grand Final glory. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

Our 18th man columnists discuss the Grand Final and answer the question – where will it rank among Shaun Wane’s other achievements?

What were your favourite Grand Final moments?

Steve Price had a beer with Shaun Wane in the Wigan dressing room. Picture: Wigan Warriors

Steve Price had a beer with Shaun Wane in the Wigan dressing room. Picture: Wigan Warriors

Jon Lyon: This was a very emotional final, for so many reasons. The look on the players, coaching staff and back room staff’s faces at full time was something that will live with me for a very long time. It seemed almost like destiny that we send off all those leaving with a winner’s ring, although I’m sure those putting their bodies on the line will say it took a little more than fate!

The atmosphere within the ground was fantastic before the game, although it was hard to even see the bar after someone let off a red flare. While probably not a good idea, it did add to the mood with hundreds of fans singing along.

After a horrific, and undoubtedly mentally dark two years, it was a joy to see Dom Manfredi score the first and last Wigan tries of the game, and if anyone deserved to end up a winner, and man of the match, if it had been picked a few minutes later, it was Dom.

Another moment captured on camera after the final was the photo of Steve Price and Shaun Wane sharing a beer and a chat.

This shot epitomises the respect we have within our sport.

Price has done extremely well this year, and I’m sure will continue to do so with the addition of Blake Austin next year, but he now knows... it’s never their year!

Sean Lawless: Overall a great team performance, it certainly isn’t a game to look back and watch over and over again but the sheer grit and determination to get the win was huge.

My stand out moment was Morgan Escare’s tackles on Stefan Ratchford after he made two breaks.

I would assume those breaks led to Ratchford getting MOM. However those breaks led to nothing, thanks to the bravery and commitment from Morgan Escare.

Darren Wrudd: As a Wigan supporter, I suppose my first favourite moment was when Warrington got through to Old Trafford whilst wiping the smirk off the whole of St Helens who believed it was almost guaranteed that their season would end the following week, that made me smile.

But at the final itself, the initial walk out for the team with Shaun Wane leading the way as he has done for the tenure of his coaching career, drove home just what a special side we had and how final this moment had become.

A lot of pride was evident in the way that we performed in that game and personally the commitment to defence was epitomised by Morgan Escare as he hit harder than a citroen van and saved at least two tries himself.

Top that with the players’ lap after the victory and the day was complete as John Bateman stood looking up at the crowd taking in the atmosphere with a smile which just said, job done.


David Bailey: Anyone who wasn’t elated for Dom Manfredi must have a swinging brick for a heart. Amongst all the emotional stories, particularly for the Warriors, a match winning performance from the Wigan winger must go down as one of the greatest stories ever to come out of a Grand Final. Two tries, one try saver and a cut above the eye for good measure just five games into his return following a two-year lay off is just incredible. There’s obviously a case for Sutton, Tomkins and Bateman bowing out as winners, particularly Bateman given everything he has done for the club since joining as a rough diamond superbly polished by Wane. Speaking of Wane, what more can be said about this guy. To see the emotion after the game when being interviewed where he had to compose himself showed you exactly what this town, this club, all us fans and more importantly the players mean to him.


Robert Kenyon: My favourite moment was Dom Manfredi going over for his try. After the two years that he’s had it was good to see him back to his best and hopefully his confidence is back to full strength now. Manfredi is very dangerous and he scares defences, I would love to see how he goes against the Aussies in the next few years. Another moment was when the winning of the trophy sank in with Escare, he looked at the trophy and mumbled something to himself in disbelief as he probably felt like he was living a dream. He’s one of my favourite players to watch and it’s good for the French game him and Navarette being part of a winning team not to mention the Catalans Challenge Cup win.

Where will Saturday’s triumph rank among Shaun Wane’s other achievements?

Jon Lyon: In truth there have been harder fought victories, not to take anything away from the effort of the boys on Saturday, who especially defensively this last two months have been exceptional, but we did have, one or two aside, an almost first choice team available, a luxury we have not always had in the past.

I would put the World Club Challenge win ahead due to the opposition and the opportunity to put one over the Australians. Any team with Luke Lewis and Paul Gallen in their side will never give up and it was a complete performance to win as comfortably as we did.

The Grand Final win in 2016 for me was Wane’s pinnacle. How we got there, let alone ground out a win I’ll never know, as we had spent most of the season with up to 10 first team players missing at a time. Wane must have been at his inspirational best to lead Wigan to victory in so many tough games with last minute winning tries.

Sean Lawless: I think the 2013 double-winning season will also rank as Wane’s best season, getting two new half backs at the start of the year after losing Finch and Leuluai and then to win the double was remarkable and a wonderful achievement.

This will certainly rank high as the emotion of him leaving and the players who are leaving only added to the pressure for the team as well as giving them a cause. Fairytales don’t always happen, just ask Kieron Cunningham – but Shaun Wane made sure his fairytale had the perfect ending.

Darren Wrudd: It will certainly be remembered as a perfect way to leave your dream job, at the top of the tree and crowned champions.

But when the dust settles and Shaun looks back on his time in charge, I feel sure he will see the culture that he and his staff have created at Wigan as the biggest achievement.

So many finals and so many trophies is often the way that history judges success or failure but what he has instilled in the club is integrity and honesty, but with the backing of Mark Bitcon and Kris Radlinski would we expect anything else.

Quite rightly given life membership to the club and labelled a legend, his time here will no doubt be seen as a golden era.


David Bailey: It’s up there as one of the best isn’t it? Everything was riding on it, so much emotion, so many farewells. If you look back on the season as a whole and everything that’s happened it’s been a rollercoaster. From the superb performance at Magic Weekend followed by the shock announcement of Wane’s departure and the mauling by the Wolves in the cup.

“Rectumgate” with the Tomkins brothers and Joel’s departure under a cloud, signing former Saint Joe Greenwood and his impressive performances since. Zak Hardaker’s signing and subsequent indiscretion. Finally the announcements of Tomkins, Bateman, Sutton, Bitcon and Peet, coupled with the appointments of Lam and then Edwards. I mean all of that in one season, it’s a wonder Kris Radlinski hasn’t gone grey, or bald! Emotionally it’s the best but for me you can’t look further than the World Club Challenge as Wane’s pinnacle. To stop the Australian domination of the World Club Challenge and put Wigan back out in front with four victories in the competition set Wane apart from any other Super League coach, especially given he played a huge part in their first triumph against Manly in 1987.

Robert Kenyon: This is right up there amongst them and he’s done it with his own team, those players have had the added incentive of winning it for Waney. There’s no better way for him to bow out from his successful period in charge and any creeping doubts or cold feet will rear their heads which they have done. Warrington battled hard and were very hard to break down but out mental and physical toughness got us through and it was great to send Waney off with another trophy. He has cemented his legacy at the club and will be very difficult to follow, he will be the benchmark to which all other Wigan coaches be measured, it wouldn’t surprise me if he was part of the coaching set up for the 2021 British Lions tour.

After New Zealand beat Australia last weekend, do you think the Kiwis will win the series against England?

Jon Lyon: The Kiwis looked very impressive, but it has to be said the Australians looked their weakest for a long time. New Zealand have some great young talent coming through and an exciting back line, but I am hopeful out forwards can dominate with the Burgess brothers having been outstanding for Souths this season.

The deciding factor could well be which Shaun Johnson turns up, as on his day, which isn’t every game, he can be unplayable, as we have found out before. I’m patriotically going for a 2-1 series win for England.

Sean Lawless: Looking at the England squad which has been severely depleted against a very strong, Michael Maguire led New Zealand team is frightening!

I expect a committed and dogged New Zealand team that will simply have too much for England. I think England will scrape a win in one test but I do expect the Kiwis to be too good for England.

Darren Wrudd: No I don’t think the Kiwis will beat us. That is not arrogance in any way as they are certainly going to be a handful, but looking at the quality of players we are capable of fielding at international level, then I am confident we can hold our own in our own back yard.

A good start is needed and some fire in the defence will make the tourists realise that they have a game on their hands.


David Bailey: I am still not certain the Kiwis have enough strength in depth to cope with missing a few key players. England have grown internationally since more and more players have turned their hand to the NRL and I just feel that England have a good mix now, but the only question mark would be at half back. I think out forwards and back line can certainly be up there and claim to be some of the best in the world, we have an abundance of class back rowers, hookers, and outside backs but half back is a worry and too often square pegs are put in round holes. I think it will be a close series but i think England will nick it 2 games to 1.

Robert Kenyon: In my opinion New Zealand never really travel to the Northern Hemisphere very well for whatever reason, we always seem to do well against them but fall short against the Aussies and its visa versa for them.

The World Cup last year showed how good we can be, we have a very good squad and I think it will be a hard fought whitewash.

New Zealand will be disciplined and harder to break down than they used to, with Michael Maguire in charge now so we may see a different style from New Zealand, whether it will suit them only time will tell.