Talking RL: 'Bad blood? Warrington Wolves will be smelling blood ahead of Wigan Warriors clash'

Wigan were one of three Super League teams who played in a final last year.

Thursday, 14th March 2019, 10:07 am
Updated Thursday, 14th March 2019, 11:48 am
Zak Hardaker on the break against Huddersfield

The other two were Warrington and Catalans.

Yet while it’s easy to remember how well they all went towards the end of the season, don’t forget how they travelled at the start.

Warrington lost four of their opening six matches as they adjusted to coach Steve Price’s methods.

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And Catalans lost five of their six matches under recent appointee Steve McNamara.

By tomorrow night, Wigan will have the same statistic from their first six Super League matches as one of those two sides (barring a draw after golden-point!).

I’m not for one second suggesting the Warriors should be absolved of criticism for the way they’ve played in recent weeks.

The performance against Huddersfield last Friday was embarrassing. Far more clueless than clinical.

But in the week-to-week grind or lurching from one bad display to another, it can be hard to lose sight of the bigger picture – maybe fans at Warrington and Catalans experienced something similar early last season, I’m not sure.

Yet mentioning Catalans, I remember asking Sam Tomkins last season whether he was worried the club he had agreed to join might be relegated.

No, he said. Because they had too many good players to not come good.

And I’d argue that’s the same with Wigan. They have quality throughout the side.

I’m confident they’ll come good.

I hope it's tomorrow night at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.

The game has been marketed as 'bad blood'. Given Wigan's form, I imagine Warrington are smelling blood... the Warriors need to aim up.

It’s not gone unnoticed by some that after each of Wigan’s three recent poor performances, Adrian Lam has pointed out that they had trained really well all week.

So those fans may take some comfort from the knowledge that the Warriors had so few fit and available players on Monday, the session got changed – and training didn’t go to plan!

He scored one of the greatest tries ever at Wembley but what I’ve really admired about Joel Tomkins’ game is his ability to harass the opposition’s key players.

Which should make Sunday’s game an interesting one – given his opposition’s key player is brother Sam!

It is the first time they have faced each other.

It was hardly a surprise to learn George Williams would almost-certainly be leaving for the NRL next year, or that he had agreed a deal with Canberra.

But what did catch me by surprise was the reaction of some fans who criticised journalists for reporting details of the move.

“When it’s announced, it’s news,” one fan replied to me on Twitter. “It’s news when this fan’s team announces it.”

But Canberra, who say Williams has not signed, were denying the John Bateman link last spring.

And when they did, finally, confirm his capture, their statement admitted they “held back announcing the deal”!

Wigan, too, have previously been guilty of dragging their heels in making announcements for whatever reason. In the case of Sam Tomkins’ first exit, so they could coincide it with Matty Bowen’s capture to ‘sweeten the pill’.

Clubs are not only choosing what they say, but when they say it. And that’s their prerogative. But in the meantime, don’t shoot the messengers for reporting what's going on.

Okay, having gone to bat for some of my colleagues in the media, I’m going to put the boot into others.

Andre Savelio has cut short his time at Brisbane, without playing an NRL game, to sign for Hull FC. Shame on those who have reported the ex-Warrington forward was “once dubbed the next Sonny Bill Williams”.

Because he wasn’t.

At least, not by anyone with any credibility.

As far as I can tell, the first time he was compared to SBW was by Australia’s Triple M, which reported Brisbane “confirm signing of player described ‘as next Sonny Bill Williams’.” Wow, you think. Someone has described him as the next SBW! Who?

But then you read on, and the report says: “As you can see in the video below, he has a helluva lot in common with SBW.”

And that was it. No-one had compared him to SBW but the reporter – and then reported the fact he had ‘been described as the next SBW’!

That’s the equivalent of me suggesting, say, Liam Byrne has a lot in common with Adrian Morley, then using a headline that he has “been described as the next Adrian Morley”... and then down the track, others reporting on Byrne by mentioning he ‘was once dubbed the next Adrian Morley’!

Wigan can’t land every player they try and sign.

But watching Salford tear Catalans apart last Saturday evening, I was wishing they had managed to get a deal for Jackson Hastings over the line.

I had a walk around Wigan’s new training ground at Robin Park and I’ve got to say, it looks promising.

Sure, right now, there are areas which look like a building site. But it is coming together and the plans look exciting – the club hope to be in their new home within the month.

Do you know the whereabouts of the family of former Wigan player, and director, Jack Hilton?

Former opponent Ron Roberts exchanged shirts with him in the final 1950 Test against Australia, and his family wants to get in touch with the Hilton family about ‘swapping back’.If you can help, please email me on [email protected] and I will pass the details on. Thanks.