The 18th Man: We need those home comforts in Super 8s

Warriors fans were generally impressed with Chris Hankinsons debut against St Helens last Thursday
Warriors fans were generally impressed with Chris Hankinsons debut against St Helens last Thursday

Our 18th Man panel discuss this week's Warriors topics.

Catalans arrive in town tomorrow. Do Wigan have a point to prove following their derby defeat last week?

Jon Lyon: I don’t think we have a point to prove in respect of how we performed against Saints.

When you look at the number and quality of players we had missing, to lose by the margin we did was no disgrace.

What we need to do, which is difficult with so many still missing, is get some cohesion back into our attack. Last week, and at numerous times this season, we seem to just shuffle the ball along the backline without drawing any defenders and then it hits the centre or wing and they have nowhere to go.

We need more support for Woods, Powell and Leuluai and more variation in the lines we run. It can’t just be a case of pass the ball to John Bateman and hope he makes a break.

Our lethal left edge has been decimated though with all of Williams, Farrell, Gildart and Burgess missing, which is bound to have a huge effect.

Sean Lawless: The Catalans game tomorrow is an interesting one, Wigan need the win to guarantee second place due to the fact that will ensure they play Castleford and Warrington at home in the Super 8s.

A win, against a resurgent Catalans side would be the confidence boost that they need ahead of the Super 8s campaign.

Robert Kenyon: 100 per cent they have a point to prove. It would be nice to see some good attacking rugby. Certain players went missing last week and need to step up to the plate.

If I’m honest, I see a comfortable win.

Catalans just scraped into the Super 8s and I can see them taking their foot off the gas now they’re safe.

I just hope Wigan are champing at the bit, but rumours about off field issues such as who will be the coaching set up next season will affect the performance this week.

The positives from the derby were that John Bateman showed how good of a player he is and we will miss him greatly next year, whoever we get in to replace him is going to have to be good.

Someone like Wade Graham or Tariq Simms would be nice, a big aggressive second rower who gets stuck in.

David Bailey: Wigan always have a point to prove, regardless of who they are facing. It comes with the territory of being a name that every side wants to beat.

Of course local rivalries mean more, but Wigan, despite the fact that others have been more successful in the Super League era, have a marker on them from the glory days of the ‘80s and ‘90s.

The fact is though, the Warriors need to try and get some consistent performances (and results) together in order to push for a Grand Final place. No one will catch Saints in the race for the hubcap so it’s all down to getting to Old Trafford for the Warriors to salvage their season.

Darren Wrudd: I don’t think we have a point to prove to anyone in Super League full stop.

The inference is that we did not beat Saints and so we must have been below par and I could not disagree more. The Saints brought their A game and even without Saint Ben and the Percival, we were seemingly outgunned. It seems no one had told our boys that and the ferocity with which we ripped into them was awesome.

Tautai, Isa and Bennie Flower stood up to the opposition with some stalwart defence but Tony Clubb was simply sublime.

I bet it brought back memories for Shaun Wane from his heady days in the shirt, seeing the collisions and sheer brutality of the controlled aggression from Clubb.

Catalans are indeed a different prospect from the team we faced in April and will be a challenge for sure, but if we commit to playing like last week, we should have no issues.

What do you make of the signing of Chris Hankinson and the decision for Thomas Leuluai to play on next season?

Jon Lyon: Hankinson was clearly a needs must signing with so many centres injured at the moment, though it seems those on the fringes such as Forsyth, Worthington and Higginson haven’t really pushed for a place when Sarginson has been out for so long, so maybe Hankinson will deliver what they can’t. He certainly had a decent enough debut and looks to have some good footwork. Hopefully he will get the chance to show what he can do over a long period.

I’ve always loved watching Tommy Leuluai. While not as fast as he once was, he’s still cutting players in half with his brutal tackles.

I’d like to see him spelled with Josh Ganson otherwise we’re just holding Josh’s development back. I’m not convinced Sam Powell is the answer anymore at half back, so after next year we may see Josh and Sam sharing the hooking role when Tommy moves into coaching.

Sean Lawless: Hankinson had a very commendable debut and looks like he could be a very good attacking threat as he becomes accustomed to his new side. He could very well be the shrewdest signing of the season.

Leuluai has been magnificent at hooker this year and I am delighted he is staying for another year, my only concern is how that may affect Josh Ganson’s development over the next 18 months.

Robert Kenyon: Only time will tell whether the signing pays off, he did well in his first game though. If things don’t work out then I’m sure he will be back playing for Swinton on dual reg.

The thing with Tommy is there’s also Sam Powell who does a similar type of role in the way they can both play scrum half and hooker but can defend also. The trap we fall into is it’s the old case of jack of all trades, master of none. Tommy will be good to have in the squad but he should be back up, we need a proper 7 and 9 come the seasons end.

David Bailey: The signing of Hankinson and the renewal of Tommy’s contract are, well, uninspiring to say the least. However, I can see why they have both happened. Wigan can play Hankinson between now and the end of the season with a little less pressure to see if he can make the step up.

It’s only an 18 month deal and he’s still relatively young so even if he doesn’t make the grade it will only be next season that the space on the cap will be taken.

However if he manages to replicate the form that has seen him earn rave reviews in the Championship then Wigan could have unearthed a gem in a problem position.

Tommy has been steady at hooker and perhaps Lenagan and Radlinski are worried about losing too much experience. Obviously Sam is going, Joel has gone, potentially Bateman too.

So it makes sense to retain some experience.

However, surely Wigan have kids in the academy we could have blooded at centre, and how long is Josh Ganson going to stay around playing third fiddle to Tommy and Sam Powell. For me it’s a little worrying that Wigan don’t appear to have faith in the youngsters at this stage.

Darren Wrudd: Chris Hankinson will be a name on these pages for the next few years if he builds on how he started his Wigan career.

One can happily forgive his lack of insight in a couple of set pieces when you realise how little time he has had to train with the squad.

But his commitment and skill in reading the game were outstanding. Not surprised really that he has been on the radar for a while and he will give selection headaches for our new coach next year when he has to leave the odd one out. I was really pleased for Chris who sounds like a good lad all round and I am sure he will fit right in.

Thomas Leuluai to continue for another year, how can that be anything but brilliant news. The toughest shoulders in Super League and an engine to match, he is like a fine wine that gets better each year.

We now know which four Super League sides will be in the Qualifiers - how many of them do you expect to be in the top-flight next year?

Jon Lyon: My predictions the last few weeks have been shocking so take this with a pinch of salt! Hull KR and Leeds seem, if anyone really can be, too good to go down. If Toronto can win a couple of games against Super League sides then it could come down to a Million Pound Game between Widnes and Salford, and Widnes just can’t buy a win at the moment, so Salford to just about sneak it again and stay up. I don’t see the likes of Toulouse, Halifax, London, Featherstone or Leigh being quite good enough this year to come up.

Sean Lawless: I expect Leeds and Hull KR to survive but I can’t see Widnes and Salford being able to come out on top against Tolouse and Toronto, in fact, I think we will see two Championship sides in the Million Pound Game this year.

Robert Kenyon: I expect to see Toronto swap places with one of either Salford or Widnes.

I’ll be glad to see the back of the Super 8 concept and go back to the traditional bottom of the league gets relegated.

If Salford go I can’t see them coming back into Super League for a good few years, Widnes would be back next year I’d say. Leeds will pull through, Hull KR will just scrape through, the only team to worry about is Toronto.

David Bailey: The race for a Super league place next season promises to be the toughest one yet.

Regardless of your opinion of the format it gets people talking.

Toronto, Toulouse, London, Halifax, Featherstone and Leigh have all shown their credentials at various points this season. I think that there could well be three Championship sides promoted but I am confident there will definitely be two. I honestly believe that Widnes and Salford will both go down. As for Hull KR and Leeds, they both should have enough to stay up but there’s always that doubt.

Leeds need to improve dramatically though and Gary Hetherington will be hoping the Rhinos find some form with Sinfield and Lowes now in situ.

Darren Wrudd: With the top three teams in the Championship currently all from outside the rugby league heartlands, it seems that we have a great risk of losing one or two historic Super League clubs this year.

I really hope not and would love to see Salford and Widnes both back for 2019. Toulouse I don’t think have the depth or genuine commitment for a second French premier side and Toronto is just a team made up of the dribs and drabs by a rich man with a passion to buy his way into the sport.

Shame he didn’t want to take over Salford instead as I sorely dislike this forced internationalisation of our game. Bending rules to accommodate like no other sport in the world does not sit well with me as a fair thing to do.

I sincerely hope that in the end, Super League quality will shine through and moving into what feels like a new era, our local clubs don’t miss out on a chance to develop over the next few years with the exciting fresh leadership structure. Promotion chances should remain though in future, but perhaps top of Championship to play bottom in Super League, winner takes all.