The 18th Man: Wigan Warriors fans on recent good form and Challenge Cup memories

Joel Tomkins' long-range Wembley try in 2011
Joel Tomkins' long-range Wembley try in 2011

ROBERT KENYON:

After nine wins from the last 10 matches, have Wigan proved they are the ‘real deal’...or are St Helens still on course for Old Trafford glory?

I’ve a good mind to have a bet on Wigan and Canberra to reach the Grand Finals, I’ve been quite pessimistic earlier on in the season but we seem to have timed it right.

We are hitting form when it matters and with the inclusion of Bevan French getting the fans up for it, it may just push us on and dare I say it, win the Grand Final.

Imagine that after the first nine games we had?

Warrington seem to have fluffed it, now if they win at Wembley on Saturday I think they’ll be satisfied for the season and take their foot off the gas, and I think a loss for Saints and the impending departure of Justin Holbrook would burst Saints’ bubble, so I’m hoping for a Warrington win.

If the opposite happens I can see Warrington really going for it in the play-offs and winning the Grand Final.

It’s also hotting up at the bottom of the table, with London Broncos keeping up the pressure on the rest.

Who do you think is going to end up being relegated from Super League?

I said from the start London, and I still think it will be them despite theirs wins against all odds.

They’ve surprised everyone this season with their performances and wins, if they do go down I can see plenty of other clubs sniffing around their players ready to sign them.

Hull KR are a good side and play some good rugby, I can’t see them going down not with Tony Smith in charge, he’s too experienced and they also have Danny McGuire, a player who can come up with the goods when it matters.

With the Challenge Cup taking centre stage this weekend, what is your favourite Wigan memory of Wembley (or Murrayfield!)?

It would have to be Joel Tomkins’ try,

I never went to the old Wembley but I did go to Cardiff in 2004.

After a few years in the trophy wilderness and Michael Maguire getting us back to where we belong in 2010, I went to Wembley in 2011 and as soon as he’d scored that try, I said it would go down as one of the best ever cup final tries.

DARREN WRUDD:

We really do look like a happy camp don’t we?

The squad has seen quite a change really in 2019 and with the new coach on board with his own idea’s, there was 
always going to be a bedding-in period.

The unexpected part of things and why it was unexpected with our history, I am not sure, is that when we have lost a few senior members of the squad to injury or departure, we have such high-quality youngsters who step up to the mark and look like they were born to it.

So yes, we could put in a real challenge against St Helens if that turns out to be the Grand Final line-up and I would perhaps suggest that would make Saints a little 
nervous.

It is a terrible shame but I think it will be Huddersfield who suffer the drop.

Such an historic club, it has had real problems with injuries this year and I feel for them indeed.

Not so much if it were Leeds facing the drop but the RFL would never let that happen to their beloved Gary Hetherington.

We have not seen such a tight relegation battle for quite a while and I feel it is both success and failure in our sport.

That London have been promoted and taken scalps from the biggest teams home and away, shows their 
claim in the top tier to be a valid one.

But to lose one of the teams who are facing relegation when in all likelihood they will be replaced by another overseas team, who have been formed from nothing with just cash as an incentive, is wrong and a huge step backwards in my eyes.

As Saints take on Warrington at Wembley this weekend, my favourite Challenge Cup final memory has to be Murrayfield 2002.

Everything about that weekend will stay with me until I die, with the famous Kris Radlinski final effort from his hospital bed taking centre stage.

The game was finished in a blur as finals often do, but it has had plenty of time to sink in since. A late tackle by Rads in the corner to stop a certain Saints try was when I thought finally, we have this.

Fond memories include Radlinski lifting up the club doctor – Dr Zaman – in front of the fans for us to cheer him as the saviour of our Challenge Cup victory, and the feeling around town that night with thousands of fans from all over the clubs mingling as they always do.

But one fan always makes the difference and that my wife Glenda shares these moments with me makes them all 
special.

Meanwhile for this weekend only – Go Warrington, woohoo!

DAVID BAILEY:

After nine wins from the last 10 matches, have Wigan proved they are the ‘real deal’...or are St Helens still on course for Old Trafford glory?

The league table doesn’t lie and St Helens stand head and shoulders above everyone else in Super League this season.

Warrington, up until recently have been their closest rivals but Wigan’s upturn in form, along with exciting off-field announcements, has created a buzz at the Warriors.

In order to be crowned champions, Saints will have to defeat someone at Old Trafford and I’m certain they won’t want to face a Wigan side brimming with confidence, pace and most importantly, experience. It’s a long way off though and I’m just happy to see Wigan playing a decent brand of rugby and the lads playing with smiles on their faces.

It’s also hotting up at the bottom of the table, with London Broncos keeping up the pressure on the rest.

No one gave London a chance at the start of the season but time and again they keep coming back. Granted they have beaten a weakened Saints team twice but if they stay up, they fully deserve it.

I just have a sneaky feeling the Broncos will pip Huddersfield Giants as the season draws to an exciting close.

As for my favourite Challenge Cup memory, if you asked one hundred Wigan fans of the last 40 years, you could easily amass 50 different memories, from the Tomkins brothers’ magnificent try against Leeds, Ellery Hanley’s scything run against Saints in the famous 27-0, Martin Offiah’s full-length effort against Leeds, Sam Tomkins’ jinking try in the pouring rain against Hull...the list goes on.

But mine is definitely the 1985 final against Hull – my first ever live game of rugby league, Henderson Gill’s full length with a smile as wide as Christmas Day, Brett Kenny’s incisive run and try from halfway, John “Chicka” Ferguson’s little shimmy in the corner and Shaun Edwards’ awkward celebration as he crossed under the posts.

What a game and the one that unlocked the glory 
years of the eighties and nineties.