Wigan are in Australia to face Hull FC this Saturday and South Sydney the following week. Here is everything you need to know about Wigan’s mini-tour Down Under...
Why are Wigan playing two games in Australia?
To make money.
When it comes to pushing the envelope, Wigan have plenty of previous – from playing in America, entering (and winning) the Twickenham Sevens, the cross-code challenge, even moving a home game to London – and this game fits with their mantra of trying to do something differently. It may earn Wigan, and Super League, some new fans.
But executive director Kris Radlinski admitted they wouldn’t have arranged the venture if it was a “break even” trip... they want to make money.
How will they make money?
Government agencies ‘Destination Wollongong’ and ‘Destination NSW’ are funding partners – and given the number of tourists who will spend cash in hotels, bars and cafes, it is easy to see why they were keen to get on board.
From those cheques, Wigan have had to pay for Hull’s trip over, hire stadiums and ‘buy-in’ South Sydney and St George Illawarra for the ANZ double-header.
Now, profit will come from getting fans to the games, selling mechandise and attracting sponsors.
Wigan say they already lured two major sponsors, on the back of going to Australia, to an impressive portfolio.
What will they spend the cash on?
Profits are reinvested in the club.
Keep in mind, Wigan’s last reported accounts showed a loss of £600,000, yet – with two marquee players – they still spend more on players’ wages than any other Super League club (about £2.2m).
Is this trip a big deal?
Yes. This Saturday’s game is the first Super League fixture ever staged outside of Europe, and means the competition beat the NRL in taking a regular-season game to the other side of the world (there have been rumours of an ‘on the road’ NRL match in England). Rugby union’s Premiership, the NBA and NFL take matches to other countries.
How many fans will be there?
Difficult to say, but the combination of travelling Wigan and Hull fans, ex-pats and interested locals is expected to push the gate beyond the 10,000-mark.
Is everyone a fan?
No, some supporters aren’t happy Wigan have sacrificed a home game for this venture. Although season ticket prices have been ‘frozen’, that could represent a loss if they play one less game at the DW... which won’t be known until the Super-8s phase starts in July.
Any other drawbacks?
Yes, Wigan play at Warrington on Friday, Feb 23 – just six days after facing Souths on the other side of the world! There is the obvious risk of a player getting injured in an exhibition game, too.
Wigan’s game at the double-header is on the same weekend as Leeds face Melbourne for the World Club Challenge. Does that make this the World Club Series?
No. After three years, the expanded WCS has been shelved. Wigan have organised the ANZ double-header, which also sees Hull FC face St George Illawarra. Those games are exhibition matches.
But, obviously, wins for Leeds, Wigan and Hull FC would no doubt give Super League’s reputation a boost.
What rules will Wigan’s games be played under?
The Hull fixture will be just like a Super League game – even down to the branding of the balls. The only difference is an Australian referee, Matt Cecchin, will be in charge. The Souths game will be played under international rules, with one referee, and have extended benches.
Where are the games taking place?
Saturday’s game is at the beach-side Win Stadium, in Wollongong – home of St George Illawarra. The following weekend’s game is at ANZ Stadium, which hosted the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Are the matches on TV?
Yes. Sky Sports is showing both games, kick-off 8.45am UK time on both Saturdays (Hull’s game with St George Illawarra is on at 6.45am UK time).
The DW Stadium’s South Stand bar will be open and showing the game on a big screen. Admission is £3 or free for season ticket holders, and tickets need to be obtained in advance from the DW office or on the club’s website.