The 18th man column: ‘Why I can’t support Leeds in World Club’

Sean O'Loughlin playing against Hull FC
Sean O'Loughlin playing against Hull FC

Our 18th man columnists discuss the historic Hull game, their favourite Aussies at Wigan – and who they will support in the World Club Challenge...

What were your impressions of the Wigan-Hull FC game?

Sean Lawless: The Hull game was, more than anything, a good one to win. Injuries certainly played their part for Hull and Wigan had the opportunity to make it a much more comfortable win than they achieved in the end. The humid conditions and the treacherous Rhino rugby ball certainly played their part in the game not quite being the spectacle we all hoped for – but a very good win and a very important two points for Wigan.

Robert Kenyon: Sloppy at the start, mainly due to the humidity and the Rhino ball. I think I’m with the majority who are sick of seeing knock ons in wet conditions and it’s my opinion that we should revert to using the Steeden balls.

Overall it’s a great concept that shows everybody that we are the biggest and best rugby club in the world. It just shows what is capable in Rugby League. Instead of taking a game to the middle of nowhere, like say, Denver. We are taking it another rugby league hotbed and growing the brand there. Who knows, with us being such a forward thinking club and doing things like this I’m sure it will be the difference when you have players young or old deciding whether to sign for us or a rival.

Jon Lyon: I was very impressed with the way Wigan went about their game against Hull. When you factor in the travel, and the heat and humidity, it was a very professional performance. We dominated from the start, Liam Marshall scoring with ease on the left. The only criticism of the first half was that we should have been more clinical, as we bombed two or three clear cut chances to score further tries. One chance in particular we had a three on one overlap and managed to pick out the only marked player with the final pass.

Wigan won the Kenny-Sterling shield

Wigan won the Kenny-Sterling shield

Second half our defence was excellent and we seemed the fitter team as the game drew to a close, which bodes well for the season ahead. George Williams was very lively and deservedly man of the match, but I though Tony Clubb and Ben Flower deserve a lot of credit for the effort they gave in attack and defence in tough conditions for such big men.

Ben Reid: I think it was more relief than anything. There was huge pressure on our heads – being the side who organised the whole game itself. If we’d have lost, it wouldn’t have gone down too well with the regular moaners. I didn’t think it was the best of games quality wise – but it sure was entertaining enough for the travelling Wigan and Hull fans.

The highlight of the game was seeing Marshall pin those ears back and kill Hull’s right-edge, not once, but twice. Burgess must be a tad nervous on the sidelines. As much credit as Marshall got (and rightly so), I thought yet again, Tom Davies was outstanding. The only downfall of such, was that we didn’t go on to win by a lot more.

Darren Wrudd: It was wonderful to see so many English fans travel to the Hull game, but I would love to see the stats regarding how many Aussies bought into the concept and turned out on the night. The game itself was a full on battle with a few errors from both sides but showed some skills too. I do think that many of the Australian clubs will see this as a shop window though and with players like Sutton out of contract next year, I wonder at the wisdom of giving the antipodeans a taste of what our best can do. Financially, I am sure the trip will pay off, but I hope it does not turn heads enough for Wigan to become an Aussie feeder club. Two points hard earned and the form on our return will no doubt give hindsight the exacting judgement to say if it was worth the trip.

David Bailey: It must go down as a success. Not just because the Warriors took the two points, but there was a decent crowd, both sets of fans seemed to enjoy themselves and have left a positive impression on the Australian public and media. On the pitch though the Warriors again impressed in patches with some great play again coming down the left hand side.

Will you be supporting Leeds, in the World Club Challenge?

Sean Lawless: Easy, no. I couldn’t support Leeds in anything, even the thought of it is bringing me out in cold sweats! I will be cheering on Wigan old boy, Ryan Hoffman for the Storm and hoping that, in all seriousness, its a close game but that the Storm eventually win. We don’t want Leeds having four WCC wins like Wigan now, do we? I will be hoping Hull do well on Saturday, my level of animosity towards Hull isn’t quite as high as it towards Leeds for some reason.

Robert Kenyon: Definitely, 100 per cent behind both teams. In fact the only time I’d support an Australian team against an English one is if they were playing Saints or Warrington.

Jon Lyon: I wouldn’t normally support Leeds or Hull unless they their victory would benefit Wigan in the league, but against the Aussies I’m going to have to be patriotic.

The more times we beat them the better for our confidence internationally. If I’m being honest though, I don’t see anything but a Melbourne Storm victory. Even though the Storm are pre-season, and having lost the likes of Cooper Cronk, Tohu Harris and Jordan McLean, they still have a team of star players and have added Ryan Hoffman and Sandor Earl among others.

Leeds have two wins from two but have been very unconvincing so far. The question is whether they can contain the ridiculously talented Melbourne back three of Billy Slater, Josh Addo-Carr and Suliasi Vunivalu, all lightening quick and evasive runners. With Leeds injury worries in the forwards I’m going for a convincing Storm win.

Ben Reid: I always find it strange when fellow Super League fans don’t want their country’s side to win the World Club Challenge. However, having said that, I can’t lie to you and say I didn’t laugh when both Leeds and more so, St Helens, got battered in 2016 and 2015 respectively. But it would be nice to see the WCC stay within the grips of Super League.

Now, I personally don’t think Leeds will get close to Melbourne on Friday. As for Hull, they’re without a few key players and could struggle. Wigan’s game could be the best contested (famous last words I know). I’m looking forward to it on Saturday, it should be a good, bruising game against Souths.

Darren Wrudd: Although I know I should support the Rhinos, hand on heart I am not sure that I can. Too raw is the sight of a gloating Sinfield cheering at the Wigan fans as they stole the final after his knock on that wasn’t, or a McGuire with a cheating last tackle to fraud them into another final. I know players move on, but it was in Leeds colours that they performed outside the spirit of the game to get their spoils and I don’t think that I can forgive that yet. I do like some of their players and the likes of Ryan Hall deserve better than a branding like that, but just as I supported the Roosters in Bolton when they spanked the Saints on Valentine’s day, I think I may enjoy seeing them in a tough game.

David Bailey: Ordinarily I’d support the British teams (except Saints) but as my aunt spent most of her life in Melbourne I have an affinity with the Storm so I will be cheering them on.

Wigan are honouring their past Australian players this week. In no particular order, who are your five favourite Aussies who have played for the club?

Sean Lawless: My five favourite Aussies to have played for Wigan are: Pat Richards – Super Man, a guy that didn’t exactly set the world alight in his first season but went on to become for me, a future member of Wigan’s hall of fame. Steve Renouf – to have such a player like Renouf play for the cherry and whites after such an incredible career in the NRL was special, and he made scrum hats fashionable again! Trent Barrett – a man that I think still has an affect on Wigan now, for Sam Tomkins to be coming through the junior ranks when Barrett was at the club was crucial in Tomkins development I think.

Brett Dallas – So many fond memories of the early days in the DW with Dallas flying down the wing, he deserved to win more silverware than he eventually did. Brett Finch – a controversial choice possibly but I loved watching him in his second year at Wigan.

Robert Kenyon: Trent Barrett – apart from Terry Newton this guy is my favourite ever player for Wigan.

Pat Richards – After his first season I would have gladly paid his ticket home but he turned it around to become a legend. Blake Green – Still fresh in the memory, would have liked him to have stayed longer. Steve Renouf – I grew up watching him play for Brisbane and Australia so when he signed for us I was made up. Brett Dallas – Quality player, quick as lightning and a try scoring machine.

Jon Lyon: My five favourite, if not necessarily the most talented, Australian players to play for Wigan are:

Brett Kenny – I started watching Wigan in 1985, not a bad year, and Kenny was one of the reasons the sport stood out as a spectacle.

Ian Roberts – though we only got half a season out of him at Wigan early in his career, his talents were there for all to see. Gene Miles – the man Martin Offiah has to thank most for his try scoring exploits at Wigan. A huge figure of a man, Miles was an expert at drawing several players towards him and somehow freakishly offloading basketball style to his winger.

Andrew Farrar – perhaps didn’t have the flair of Steve Renouf but was, alongside Gary Connolly, the best defensive centre I have ever seen. Michael Dobson – despite the high profile signing of Stuart Fielden, it was without doubt Dobson who saved Wigan from relegation in 2006.

Ben Reid: Trent Barrett – When he came into the side back in 2007, we were struggling big time. He single-handedly pulled us from the ruins and saved us that year. Pat Richards – The best kicker I ever saw at Wigan. My best memory of him was the drop goal against St Helens from the sidelines, it was sensational. Blake Green – Absolute machine! I will never, ever forget his performance in the Grand Final against Warrington back on 2013. Brett Finch – He didn’t spend too long with us, but what he did was brilliant. He was sheer quality on the field and could make something happen out of nothing. Amos Roberts – He was fast, skilful and scored tries for fun. It was sad the way his career ended at Wigan and of course altogether, but I will always remember the good times.

Darren Wrudd: Well David Furner just makes the five as he gave so much at second row and was such an important part of the squad, also in at number four would be Blake Green. If for nothing else that immensely brave performance at Old Trafford. At three would be Brett Dallas, a tough winger with speed to burn. His final act at the DW was to leave his boots on the centre spot which had me close to tears.

Two would be close but I think that Steve Renouf ‘the pearl’ would take that spot. A more skilful centre in rugby league I would find hard to suggest. Top spot though I would have to give, most predictably, to Pat Richards. An amazingly tough character who’s sedate stride made it hard to gauge just how fast he was. Points galore at nearly 2500, topped by the most amazing drop goal in the history of the club, which includes Lydon’s halfway effort.

David Bailey: Two of my favourite Aussie players ever to don the Cherry and White are inseparable to me, and whilst Brett Kenny took all of the accolades as the playmaker it was John “chicka” Ferguson that was the first player to really make me sit on the edge of my seat with excitement.

Ian Roberts may be a controversial shout but he was as big and as hard as they came when he had his short spell at Wigan.

He never took a backward step and when you compared his physique to that of the British forwards at the time it was undoubtedly players of his ilk that led to players here taking the game more seriously and getting fitter.

Martin Offiah was one of the most prolific try scorers of any generation but ask the man himself and Gene Miles was a huge factor in his success at Wigan.

Trent Barrett – Again like Kenny and Ferguson, he just oozed class and literally dragged Wigan over the line so many times.

Honorable mentions to Dave Furner, Brett Dallas, Phil Blake and Steve Renouf who were great players.