'Wigan Warriors' recruitment drive is on fire' - the 18th Man Column
Our 18th Man columnists discuss Wigan's signings - and tonight's clash at Hull FC...
George Burgess – pleased with his signing?
Jon Lyon: Pleased? I’ve not been this excited by a new signing since, well, three weeks ago when we signed Jackson Hastings. Ian Lenagan and Kris Radlinski are on fire at the moment. Hastings, Clark, French and now Burgess. Who next? The way they are going I’m half-expecting a time-travelling 20-year-old Brett Kenny to rock up at the DW. It’s hard to keep focussed on the rest of this season, so exciting is our squad looking for next year.
Burgess has had his issues with discipline this year at South Sydney but remains a phenomenal prop with the size and go-forward we have been looking for to add to our depleted pack. With Farrell, Greenwood, Lockers, Bullock, Clark, Isa, Navarette, and fit-again Flower and Clubb, plus the super talented youngsters who have had plenty game time this year, our pack will be a much stronger animal next season.
Sean Lawless: I am over the moon with the signing of George Burgess! As the press release suggested, it does feel like a real statement of intent from Wigan and a move to address an area of the squad that needed improvement. A current NRL star, a current international and someone who will bring much-needed leadership to the team. A fantastic signing and who knows, his brothers may miss him so much, that they fancy pulling on the Cherry and White also.
Robert Kenyon: I’m absolutely over the moon. No disrespect to the current front-rowers, but I thought we needed a ready made 6’3-plus, 18 stone, played-prop-all-his-life pack leader rather than a project player or impact prop. Burgess comes in as No.1 prop which is exactly what we needed.
It makes our pack formidable and a pack to be reckoned with, and that’s the first time in a very long time we have had a world-class prop sign for us.
We have some good props at the club and I’m sure with having Burgess it will certainly bring the best out of the other props. Ben Flower is a very under-rated prop who I think will get the credit he deserves playing alongside Burgess. and it will bring out the best in Joe Bullock and the youngsters and compliment the impact of Clubb and Clark. It’s also a statement of intent from the club and, with all the bad news that has surrounded the club throughout the season, albeit not the club’s fault, perhaps this is a bit of a gift or present for the fans to entice them back to watch games. I certainly can’t wait for next season.
David Bailey: I know I’m in a minority here, but I have my reservations. Yes he’s a statement signing, and he’s a current international with huge experience of both the NRL and international game. But, he’s currently serving a long ban for gouging, and he’s done it before. Plus he is surely a marquee signing and I’m sorry, props should not be marquee signings. He should improve our pack, but he’s not going to win us a Grand Final. Jackson Hastings, yes all day long, but a prop? I desperately hope I’m proved wrong, and the fact that many opposition fans are disgruntled with him signing for Wigan makes me think I could well be.
Darren Wrudd: I should say so, with two forwards missing this year as Tautai and Hamlin have left us, we have felt light in the pack at times and lacking some of the dominance we have become used to here at Wigan. That is not taking away from the likes of Club and Flower, who have both stood up fantastically well this year. But the crop of exciting youngsters we have are just that – youngsters. The most pleasing aspect of what we have done here, though, is to show intent. Not since Stuart Fielden was brought over the Pennines have we shown such a bold front towards building the pack. If we can nurture and keep our youngsters over the next few years, they will learn much from such a high quality player as Burgess. I am just glad my season ticket auto renews as I don’t want to miss this.
Jeanette Lusher: George comes with a proven record as an excellent prop forward so I am indeed pleased with his signing. All of that NRL experience and international representation will certainly provide strength and domination to our front row. What an excellent blend of youth and experience there is going to be. Flower, Clubb, Bullock, Navarette and, yes, even Burgess, are going to be looking over their shoulder next season as the likes of Partington, Byrne, Havard and Wells progress relentlessly forward. We all know that forwards win games and we certainly have the bodies to do the job in 2020!
What position do you think Bevan French will play?
Jon Lyon: Another exciting talent snapped up by Lenagan and Radlinski. I’ve enjoyed watching French play since he made his debut in the NRL in 2016 and he is absolutely rapid. The pace in our back line is now frightening. Equally comfortable at fullback and wing, he could easily cover either of those positions. But with the quality of our four wingers and Hardaker, I expect him to line up at stand-off next season, with Hastings at scrum-half and Leuluai covering or spelling with Powell at hooker.
Though this appears harsh to say, French seems very much like Morgan Escare 2.0, similar in style with the same type of abilities, but faster, stronger and more skilful (sorry Morgan). If Bevan can leave his injury problems behind, he will take Super League by storm. I expect this signing will also see the end of Escare, who needs to leave for the benefit of his own career. It’s a shame it hasn’t worked out for him but he’s wasted in the reserves.
Sean Lawless: Bevan French is the kind of player I would love to see come of the bench after 50 minutes or so and just let have him have 30 minutes running at tired teams. I imagine his role in 2019 will be to fill as needed perhaps across the entire backline as and when required, but I would assume he may be earmarked as a half back in 2020 which may put Leuluai’s future in doubt – perhaps prompting the signing of French.
Robert Kenyon: This year, probably on the wing if at all. He’ll have to wait his turn as we have players who are playing well in all positions on the back line. Next year I’m guessing stand-off, I’ve read reports online that it’s his favoured position, but has played wing and fullback for Parramatta. It’s believed he is lightning quick and is a Matty Bowen-style of player, I think him playing stand-off will work if Hastings plays the old-fashioned scrum half first receiver, with French running off him, rather than us playing split halves. Or Hardaker may move into the right centre spot with French slotting in a full-back, who knows. I guess we will be able to suss it out once we know who is leaving. Either way he is very versatile so can slot in anywhere across the back line.
David Bailey: This season I think he will be played out on the wing. We have a few injuries there, and he’s played a lot of football there. It makes sense to blend him into the team there. Long-term I have no idea, he started as a half and then wanted to be full-back but was played as a winger. You have to imagine Hardaker will be FB and Gildart and Bibby the centres next season. With wingers back from injury it’s anyone’s guess really unless we try him in the halves with Hastings. I think the fact most Parra fans are sorry to see him go says a lot, and the main weakness seemingly was his lightweight nature which he may be able to get away with in Super League!
Darren Wrudd: French is a wonderfully versatile back and having seen him play would fit in almost anywhere, but I would love to see him play at half back for us. Perhaps off the bench to slot in where best required for a game but, if playing alongside our current halves of Williams and Sammut, he would hit the ground running next year, when he would make an exciting pairing with Hastings. Wherever he plays, get ready for a lightning quick, attacking back who could cut teams to shreds and light up Super League.
Jeanette Lusher: This is a fifty million dollar question! Adrian Lam must be delighted that Wigan has secured Bevan French for the remainder of the season, and the versatility of the man must be giving Adrian a wonderful headache. Full-back, centre, wing and half-back are playing positions in his resume, and his speed and fitness are all mouth-watering prospects as we hit the business end of the season. He also brings a freshness to the squad and it feels like our 2019 season is about to take off big style! I sincerely hope so! We have so much to play for in our last six league games, four of which are at home, and the biggest prize is still there for the taking. I say play Bevan wherever Adrian feels he will be most effective and where he will do the most damage to the opposition!
Will Wigan beat Hull FC?
Jon Lyon: Last week I said an improving Hull would beat Warrington, so what do I know? My predictions this year have been worse than the Titanic captain’s weather forecasting. A lot will depend on how Hull react to their cup defeat. If they are determined to bounce back then this will be a very tough game, even with our returning players. If they suffer a hangover then we should be able to sneak it.
Ever the optimist, I’m going to go for a Wigan win by no more than six points. We have been improving nicely, Saints game apart, and with some experience back in the pack to give the young lads a rest, and with the extra week off, I think we will be fresh enough to grind out a victory.
Sean Lawless: Hull FC put everything into their semi-final against Warrington both mentally and physically, which I think will ultimately give Wigan an advantage on Thursday, particularly with the short turnaround for FC. I think Wigan have had a lot of time to prepare for this game and it is a real opportunity to stake their claim for a top-three finish and I expect them to win well.
Robert Kenyon: I think so, as they’re coming off the back of a last-minute loss their heads will be down, whereas with all the positives around our club and the week off it may buoy us. It’s a game I’m really looking forward to as there’s a feel good vibe about the club with next year’s signings announced, which is good to have back.
The weekend off and all the news aired about next year I’m hoping is the catalyst to push on for the latter part of the season. With Warrington and Saints’ minds on the Challenge Cup Final, let’s hope we can sneak up further in make sure we finish in the play-offs. It’s not how you start a season it’s how you finish it, and I’ll take poor start so long as we end it well.
David Bailey: I think the fact Hull exerted so much energy into the semi and the disappointment of losing will ultimately be the difference. Lee Radford will no doubt fire FC up and has already said all their eggs are in one basket. Wigan have enjoyed a brief spell away in the sun and should be refreshed and focused. There will be a buzz about the place too, with 2020 recruitment sorted and the announcements of French and Burgess, so I’m expecting Wigan’s fitness to tell and to come back from Humberside with two more vital points.
Darren Wrudd: I think we will beat Hull FC, yes. They put in a decent performance against Warrington last weekend but they will have taken an emotional drain from that, and the bounce back can work both ways.
We have seen good opposition cop it the following week, or losing semi-finalists fall in a heap themselves. A week off will have done us a world of good and helped heal a few bruises, so I expect a refreshed and energetic performance from Wigan to put Hull down with some style.
Jeanette Lusher: It’s never easy going to Hull, but there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful and very positive. We have had the benefit of a week off and hopefully the squad members have been able to shake off niggling injuries and refresh ready for the big run-in. We have experienced returning players who can handle the big pressure games and can guide the team around the park. We have ground our way up the league table and know that only the top spot eludes us – for second or third are certainly achievable should we defeat Hull! We have won six of our last seven league matches and are massively improved in both attack and defence, not to mention mental toughness.
The team has bought into Adrian’s way of play and the moves are flowing nicely. There is competition for places so players will want to impress. The Warriors battled through turbulent days earlier this season, when we were lurching from one disaster to another, but now it is all exciting and positive vibes so the future must certainly be cherry and white! Yes we’ll win.