Warriors in 2017: Five things to remember

Wigan celebrate World Club success
Wigan celebrate World Club success
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Coaches, players and fans have been in agreement – Wigan’s 2017 season wasn’t particularly enjoyable.

But before it is consigned to the history books for good, here are five things to remember fondly from a turbulent year...

1. The World Club Challenge

In seven years between 1987 and ‘94, Wigan won the World Club Challenge three times.


In the 23 years since, they once went close and once were outclassed, but 2017 will be remembered as the year Wigan were World Club champions once again.

Oliver Gildart crosses at St Helens

Oliver Gildart crosses at St Helens

And what an occasion it was. Across the muddy DW Stadium pitch, there were some epic duels, and some nice touches of skill from the Warriors as they beat Cronulla 22-6 – and delivered Super League a much-needed shot in the arm.

2. The emergence of Tom Davies and Liam Marshall

The shiny silver lining to Wigan’s seemingly-obligatory injury crisis was it opened up opportunities for some of those next in line.

And Shaun Wane unearthed two wing gems with Tom Davies and Liam Marshall, who shared the club’s Young Player of the Year award. They each figured 24 times, and impressed for different reasons – Marshall for his finishing prowess, and Davies for his metre-eating efforts.

With Joe Burgess also impressing on his return, the wing was arguably the most competitive – and consistently impressive – position in the side.

3. French polish

The signing of Morgan Escare raised a few eyebrows; not because he wasn’t rated, but because – as a full-back – he wasn’t needed.

But he wasted little time in showing what he can bring to the side; zip, excitement and a defensive grit which defies his stature.

Fellow countryman Romain Navarrete didn’t settle, but Escare proved an asset and Wigan wasted little time in tying him to a longer-term contract.

Typical of their misfortune, Escare suffered a season-ending knee injury in a hammering at Castleford – Ben Flower also went for the year in the same game – but fans will be looking forward to seeing him back in action.

4. Bragging rights

It is the hope, they say, that kills you.

And the disappointment over the way the season tailed off – Castleford at home, anyone? – was amplified by the fact Wigan had, in the build-up, shown signs of a strong finish to their league campaign.

And that was best typified when they overcame huge hurdles to register arguably their most impressive league win of the year – beating St Helens 26-16.

Wigan were busted and down from a Wembley loss. Saints were well-rested, at home, and created a huge buzz around the debut of marquee recruit, Ben Barba.

But the Warriors dampened the home party with an impeccable display in which Sam Tomkins and Sean O’Loughlin excelled, George Williams struck five goals and Oliver Gildart – another to impress in ‘17 – crossed for two tries.

Their previous trip to the Totally Wicked Stadium had ended in a 22-19 defeat but earlier, Wigan had maintained their perfect Good Friday record under Shaun Wane.

5. Dramatic finishes

There weren’t too many great performances and there weren’t too many great games. But there were plenty of great endings!

In February, Wigan trailed Widnes by 14 points but Gildart’s late try snatched a two-point win. The two draws with Huddersfield were nerve-shredders, and remember the Magic Weekend? Warrington thought they had won it, Lockers hoisted the bomb, Burgess collected...

Ah, Burgess. What about Warrington in the Challenge Cup quarter-final? When Wigan had edged ahead, and then the winger’s kick restart sailed out on the full and gave the Wire a late-shot to snatch the win with a penalty!

And not all the tense climaxes went their way.

They appeared on course for victory at St Helens when Mark Percival snatched the ball from Lewis Tierney’s grasp and settled an epic derby.

And then there was Wembley, Tony Clubb’s no-try, Burgess arcing over for a try, that ‘we’ve done it feeling’ crumbling at the sight of the referee signalling for a forward pass.

Ah, rugby league. Even when it’s pretty bad, it’s good.