The 18th Man Column: What Sam Tomkins will be remembered for most

Sam Tomkins bowed out  with a Grand Final success
Sam Tomkins bowed out with a Grand Final success

Wigan Warriors fans have their say

Sam Tomkins is back on Sunday – what’s your single favourite memory of him playing at Wigan?

Sean Lawless: Sam Tomkins is showing week by week what Wigan are missing! My favourite memory has to be the 2012 season, although we only won the League Leaders Shield that year the team was incredible. We played exciting, expansive rugby under Shaun Wane that year and Sam Tomkins was the pinnacle of it. He was injured just before the semi-final against Leeds that year and that proved costly; the run-around try he scored at the Etihad against St Helens being the prized memory from that season.

Darren Wrudd: This is a tough one for me really as I don’t hold that many outstanding memories of Sam at Wigan. Not that he was not a good player for us when fit, but I just don’t seem to put him on that high a pedestal as many do.

Probably due to the way he seemed to use Wigan as a stepping stone when his career needed it, we brought him on so he left for more money, he didn’t do well and got injured so we brought him on again until he left for a better deal, can’t blame him but not really the bedrock of a Wigan great for me.

I suppose if I had to choose it would be the friendly at Warrington when we saw all three Tomkins brothers on the field for the one and only time in the same shirt. That was a great moment for them and the club.

Jeanette Lusher: Gosh that is a tough one indeed! There have been so many spectacular plays in a Wigan shirt that have epitomised Sam’s skill, speed and ability to read a game. There have been countless full games that have been governed by his leadership skills, determination, desire to win and his competitiveness. However, pressed for an answer, my choice would be his match winning 77th minute drop goal at Headingley last season securing our first victory there in six years!

Jon Lyon: Over the years Sam has brought us plenty of highlights. It’s easy to forget how electric he was in the first few years he wore the cherry and white shirt. As tough as it is to pick just one highlight, I would have to go for the try he scored against St Helens in the 2012 Magic Weekend game. He took a pass 10 metres inside his own half, sold an outrageous dummy and just burned away from the Saints defence to score in the corner with Paul Wellens left trailing in his wake. This just about pips his constant winding up of the Leeds fans.

What pleased you most about Wigan’s win at Salford on Sunday?

Sean Lawless: Wigan showed a resilience and a need to win against Salford which had been missing, it was in no way a great performance but it was a win and that was crucial. Although lacking on the defensive front, the left edge in attack is starting to once more look threatening. Williams, Greenwood, Gildart and Burgess all together on the left could be exactly what Wigan need, moving forward.

The Salford win was good for many things but for me the stand out was the commitment and belief that we can come back into a game and stamp our authority. To conquer a good Salford side like we did was a huge step forward in terms of performance and attitude. The style is beginning to stick and things should hopefully get better performance wise from here on providing injuries don’t add to the equation.

Darren Wrudd: The Salford win was good for many things but for me the stand out was the commitment and belief that we can come back into a game and stamp our authority. To conquer a good Salford side like we did was a huge step forward in terms of performance and attitude. The style is beginning to stick and things should hopefully get better performance wise from here on providing injuries don’t add to the equation.

Jeanette Lusher: This game was a further step in the right direction and was a progression on what we saw at Warrington. The determination and confidence in the team is back. There was more composure and patience and less panic and recklessness. I know we still have a long way to go but in this game there was a much higher percentage of the new way of play - Adrian’s way.

We saw some lovely moves in the build up to the tries and with timing a little better we would have seen so much more. We saw better discipline particularly in the second half thus cutting out silly penalties. At the present time we are taking one step forward but then injuries, suspensions and off field matters seem to take us two steps back! However, once we can get a good run of turning out a consistent seventeen on dry pitches I truly believe that we shall most certainly reap the benefits of everyone’s labours!

Jon Lyon: The team’s failure to panic after blowing an 18-6 lead to be behind 22-18 just into the second half, and then the tenacity to defend our lead for 18 minutes when we then got back in front again. Defensive frailties have cost us dearly this season so far so it was great to see everyone working for each other and stopping an in-form Salford from coming back a second time.

Scoring 30 points away from home was also pleasing to see, and without getting too excited at one result, hopefully that’s a sign that Adrian Lam’s attacking intent is starting to show.

Salford’s match-day admission was £27 for adults. Are tickets too expensive across the board, or are the prices fair?

Sean Lawless: Football have looked at capping the cost for away tickets and I think the prices creeping up for away fans in rugby league, especially for Wigan fans. It does feel like clubs are taking advantage of those clubs that have a loyal away following. The quality of the stadium or ground in some cases, like some of our West Yorkshire friends’ facilities, should certainly be reflected in the pricing. The prices for Wigan fans to be located on the “terrace” at Wakefield for the forthcoming trip are as equally as extortionate.

Darren Wrudd: Double edged sword this one, although I understand that clubs need to raise funds to improve the facilities and staff, our away support in general is pretty poor as a sport and so milking the cash cow a little too heavily could cause a backlash. Our own ticket prices this weekend start at £23 and that’s about right for me. We should build the fan base first and create that demand within our sport, but we won’t if we start to overcharge. Wigan has a good away support and some clubs do seem to up their prices to make an extra bonus on the back of us.

Jeanette Lusher: It seems ironic that a ticket to an international match or even a cup match can be considerably cheaper than a league match ticket especially at a time when the game needs bums on seats as attendances are dropping.

Surely 10,000 supporters paying £10 each is better than 5,000 supporters paying £20. It generates the same revenue on ticket sales but increases revenue on food, drink and programme sales as well as making the game affordable and appealing to families and to newcomers. At Wigan, I feel that both home and away supporters get great value for money with the stadium, facilities and entertainment.

Jon Lyon: It must be a tough balancing act to get pricing right for clubs like Salford who know they will never get too many fans through the gate. Most clubs offer reasonable deals on family tickets, and, in general, season ticket prices are pretty low.

Whilst discounts are a good idea to encourage people to pre book tickets, an awful lot of people for family or work reasons only decide to go to a match on the day of the game, and by having the highest prices on the day, this will only put those fans off, so Salford, and all clubs who do this, are losing a lot of last minute fans who might have otherwise have gone to the game.

My local football team play in the Vanarama National League North, which I think is one step above Subbuteo. They still charge £15 to get in, so in comparison rugby league fans don’t do too badly to see top level matches.

Finally, hypothetically – if you were awarding the ‘Wigan Player of the Year’ award tomorrow, who would it go to?

Sean Lawless: With two victories, picking a hypothetical player of the year is very difficult! My candidates however would be Ben Flower, our leading try scorer and someone who has given it his all this season, you really cannot fault his effort. The other one would be Gabe Hamlin for very similar reasons. Hamlin has had a big impact from the bench this year and has been a catalyst in many performances for the period of time that he is on the field.

Darren Wrudd: I would have to say Zak Hardacker. He has been pretty constant all the way so far and whilst he has a way to go to reclaim his previous standards, he is well on the path towards attaining his goal. Sarginson would certainly push him close too as since his Australian adventure he has been reborn as a Wigan player and really impresses particularly in defence. If he learned to straighten up and pass the ball too, he would be my number one, sorry Sarge.

Jeanette Lusher: Without a doubt, at this moment in time, I would award my “Wigan Player of the Year” award to Ben Flower! He looks so much fitter this season with a fine turn of pace and he has put in some terrific performances. Due to injury and reduced interchanges he has had the stamina to play for long stints in particular at Saints and Salford. His defence has been good but, so far, his greatest attribute has been his back up play in attack that has brought him his three tries! Keep up this good work Ben and you’re sure to secure that Great Britain shirt at the end of the season!

Jon Lyon: The clear leader would have to be Zak Hardaker. I really don’t think he could have done more so far this year.

He has been solid under the high ball, chimed into the attack well when allowed and has been exceptional in defence, saving several tries with one on one tackles on or over the line. Considering his off season and the fact he is adjusting to a new team, that maybe yet isn’t quite as expansive as he was used to at Castleford, he has been one of the real positives of our season so far.