In the first of his exclusive columns for 2018, Liam Farrell picks out a key player at each of Wigan’s Super League rivals...
Leeds – Kallum Watkins
If you give him a bit of space or a bit of time with the ball, he can be devastating. There are a number of players you could pick, but Kallum has the ability to do something exceptional, and he’s taken on more responsibility – he was goal-kicking last year and now they’ve made him captain. He’s a classic centre, there aren’t too many left in the game and we’re lucky to have him in our competition.
Castleford – Luke Gale
It’s unfortunate for them they’ve not got Zak Hardaker, because he was outstanding last season. It’s difficult to look beyond Luke Gale, the current Man of Steel. He controls them around the field, he kicks well. Ben Roberts has replaced Zak at full-back and I think he will fill that role well - he’s pretty hard to stop defensively.
Hull FC – Albert Kelly
He’s very good with the ball in hand. They have some quality forwards with the likes of Scott Taylor and Liam Watts, and on the back of their efforts it gives Kelly the space to cause teams a lot of trouble.
St Helens – Jonny Lomax
I know a lot will look at Ben Barba and they have a lot of talented individuals – when Alex Walmsley plays well, Saints play well – but I’d like to see Jonny Lomax have a good season. He’s been really unfortunate with injuries over the last few years but he’s very talented and when he was 21 or 22, he was one of their stand-outs. I’d like to see him as their key player.
Wakefield – Tom Johnstone
He’s a winger who has a lot of hype and when you watch them play, you can see why. He was Super League’s young player of the year in 2016 and he started last season well before he suffered a serious injury – he could be among the competition’s top tryscorers this year.
Huddersfield – Jermaine McGillvary
After his World Cup, he’s got something to live up to – he was outstanding in that tournament. Teams struggled to deal with him because they don’t play against him week in, week out, I don’t think they realised just how strong he carries the ball. He’s very effective at what he does.
Salford – Robert Lui
He went well for them last season and with Michael Dobson departing, he’ll be the man who they will look to. If he can find a bit of form – and Logan Tomkins, Gaz O’Brien and new signing Jack Littlejohn help control things – then I think he could be their star man.
Catalans – Greg Bird
They’ve signed well, with David Mead and my mate Micky McIlorum, but Greg Bird comes straight to my mind. He was outstanding when he played, and I imagine him and Micky get on well because they play the game a similar way, and if Greg can get some games under his belt I think he could be up there as a Man of Steel contender.
Widnes – Rhys Hanbury
When Widnes play well, he seems to be the one who causes the problems, setting up plays or scoring tries. I could throw Joe Mellor in the mix, but Rhys probably just edges it as their key player.
Hull KR – Danny McGuire
He has a bit of pressure on his shoulders, given what he achieved at Leeds. He controlled the Rhinos really well last season and was a major factor in them reaching and winning the Grand Final. If he can have that kind of effect on the newly-promoted Robins, they may surprise a few this year. Expect big Mose Masoe to cause a few headaches, too.
Warrington – Ben Currie
There are a few I could pick from at Wire, including new signing Ben Murdoch-Masila, but I’ll go with Ben. There’s always been a lot of hype around him, and for a good reason - he’s a really good player. He hardly played last season because of injury but was outstanding in the World Cup, and if he can get some games under his belt, he will be hard to handle.