SAM Tomkins has rubbished suggestions that Wigan’s play-off assault has been hindered by their Wembley success.
No team has completed a Challenge Cup-Super League title double since the former was switched to an autumn slot – just before the start of the Grand Final race.
But as he collected his second award of the season yesterday, Tomkins insisted Wigan are well armed to break that record.
He said: “I feel as fresh now as I did at this point last year.
“The Cup is only a couple more games, so you can’t use it as an excuse for not doing well. People are saying that because we got beat by Warrington the week after Wembley we’re suffering, but we’re over that now.
“That game was the shake up we probably needed – we’re in good shape.”
Sparks are expected to fly when Wigan take on St Helens this Sunday in their opening play-off match.
The winner will progress direct to the semi-final, while the loser gets a second chance the following week.
“We needed the safety net last year and you should get a reward for finishing nearer the top of the ladder, but we don’t want to rely on it,” said Tomkins.
The full-back says the players have already felt the fans’ burning ambitions and expectations, which will surely be ratcheted up over the next few days.
“That’s the big thing about the derby, the build-up,” said Tomkins. “The Saints lads get it from their fans, too. It’s exciting.
“It’s strange that we’re trying to hurt each other for 80 minutes because we all get on well.
“With Saints, it’s different to some other top teams we play – the players are nice blokes as well.”
Tomkins picked up his second individual award of the season after being named Super League player of the year by the Rugby League Writers’ Association.
The 22-year-old, who finished the regular season as leading tryscorer on 26, beat Castleford stand-off Rangi Chase into second spot.
Michael Monaghan (Warrington), James Roby (St Helens), Lee Briers (Warrington), Sean O’Loughlin (Wigan) and Scott Dureau (Catalan Dragons) also earned votes in a poll of association members. “I’m honoured,” said Tomkins, who last Saturday was named Wigan fans’ player of the year at the Riversiders’ dinner and remains favourite for the Man of Steel.
“It’s always nice to pick up awards, although it’s not something you think about all year. It’s a team sport and there’s another 16 players in every game doing their bit to make my job a little bit easier. A lot of it is down to the lads.”
Tomkins is the second successive Wigan recipient of the Writers’ award, which went to Pat Richards in 2010.
Phil Bentham will take charge of Sunday’s DW play-off match.