Wigan start their Super League defence against Salford today – here are five reasons to be excited...
1. It’s round one. It’s been four months since Wigan last played. Oh sure, there’s been the Four Nations and the friendlies, but it’s been too long between drinks. Fans will expect a bit of rust - we saw that in the opener between St Helens and Leeds - but it’s the end of a long, long void for Wigan fans.
2. New signings Morgan Escare, Joe Burgess and Thomas Leuluai are all set to play today. Of these, Wigan fans know what they can expect from the latter two, but Escare is making his competitive debut for the club - and he’s an exciting prospect. Elsewhere, Tony Clubb and Joel Tomkins could mark their returns from injury lay-offs - it’d be great to be reminded how good they are.
3. This isn’t on TV. Which is rare, for Wigan, given seven of their next 10 matches are on the box.
Of course, the lack of the cameras is not a reason in itself to be excited - but the knock-on effect will be a stronger away support, more home fans too, and - hopefully - a better atmosphere for an unusual 1.15pm kick-off.
4. Salford. They may not have the best players in the league, but they have some of the most watchable. Stand-off Robert Lui lit up many dull games last year, Gareth O’Brien provided arguably the stand-out moment of 2016 in the thrilling Million Pound Game, and winger Justin Carney is pure box-office.
5. This is Wigan’s only tune-up before the World Club Challenge next week. Of course there is the risk the players will be distracted by the showdown with Cronulla - and what a DW firecracker that is shaping to be - but, really, they should be using this game to press their claims. Because Shaun Wane has more players than he has available slots; and fans love the pre-game debates about which players should get the nod.