THIS week’s home showdown with Warrington has been labelled “bigger than the Big One” as Wigan aim to secure their place in the top-four.
Victories for Castleford and Huddersfield yesterday set-up a dramatic finish to the regular Super League campaign.
Wigan, in third, will guarantee themselves a top-three finish if they overcome the Wolves at the DW on Thursday. They would finish second – and secure a home opening play-off match – if Castleford lose at Catalan on Saturday.
But defeat to Warrington in three days’ time would see them drop to fourth – and leave them vulnerable to finishing fifth, should Huddersfield overcome St Helens on Friday.
The structure of the play-offs heavily favours the top-four.
In their opening play-off match, the winners progress straight to the semi-finals while the loser gets a second bite the week later.
Teams finishing fifth to eighth must win four sudden-death matches to clinch the title - most, if not all, away from home.
“It doesn’t have the same title as the Big One, but to us it will be bigger if it’s vital to us finishing in the top-four,” said Jack Hughes. “A top four finish is what we want. We don’t want to be finishing fifth.”
Hughes declared Wigan’s season firmly back on track with their 21-6 victory against Leeds on Friday.
And he says their performance followed the same blueprint which took them all the way to a Super League title last year.
“It was nothing flashy, just hard work, dedication and desire and that’s what we did in the play-offs last year and it worked,” he said. “That’s us back on track and hopefully we can stay like that.”
The 22-year-old was a late addition to the side on Friday, getting the nod to play just an hour before kick-off. Having played in last year’s Grand Final, he is hoping his performance was enough to keep him in the squad for the assault on Old Trafford.
“Gells came in not so well they told me to get ready and then at about 7pm, they told me I was in,” he said. “It’s hard being the 18th man because in your head you know you’re unlikely to play, but there’s always that small percentage that you will be needed.
“I felt I did okay, my match-fitness was a bit off because I’m not had much game-time, but I was relatively happy.”
Meanwhile, Joel Tomkins is expected to be fit to face Warrington after leaving Friday’s action early, complaining of feeling unwell.