Our 18th Man columnists discuss Wigan selection and pick their favourite Gareth Hock memory...
Five players may return next week - O’Loughlin, Leuluai, Flower, Burgess and Greenwood. Who misses out? What would be your 17?
Jon Lyon: The return of these five players is huge for Wigan, especially Greenwood, Lockers and Flower as we have been hit hard in the forwards. I would expect all five players to return to the first team with the match against Hull a must win if we are to have any hope of making 3rd place.
My 17 would be: Hardaker; Marshall, Hankinson, Gildart, Burgess; Williams, Leuluai; Clubb, Powell, Flower, Farrell, Isa, O’Loughlin with a bench of Greenwood, Navarette, Smithies and Sarge/Sammut.
The young lads missing out should take this as an opportunity to rest after a tough period, not consider it a demotion, they have been fantastic while we have had so many senior forwards missing.
Robert Kenyon: Hardaker; Marshall, Sarginson, Gildart, Burgess; Williams, Leuluai; Flower, Powell, Bullock, Farrell, Isa, O’Loughlin. Subs: Smithies, Clubb, Navarette, Sammut.
I’ve heard a rumour Greenwood is going to be out for a couple of weeks so I’ve left him out. Another player I’d have loved to have had back in the team was Ethan Havard but in the back row, he reminds me of a young Adrian Morley. I wouldn’t play Hankinson on the wing, he’s a lot better at centre but Sarginson has put some very good performances so it’s a hard choice.
Darren Wrudd: If starting 17 players are fit, you would think that they would have to play and that would certainly be the case with Lockers, Flower, Burgess and Greenwood, but having Jarrod Sammutt from the start last week I think really made a difference to his game.
Instead of coming on for the impact and lift, he worked his way into the game and picked his moments well. So I would be tempted to leave Tommy on the bench.
To keep playing Morgan Smithies may over expose the lad at such a young age so care must be taken there and he would miss out for that reason alone as his form is fantastic.
Clubb is obviously doing it hard at the moment and did not look fit last week, so a sit down for Tony too with Flower a natural replacement. Other than that, the youngsters make way and wait their turn.
Challenge Cup semi-finals this weekend – what will happen, and who’ll be triumphant at Wembley?
Jon Lyon: Saints against Halifax is an easy one to call. Even the most romantic rugby league fan can’t hope for a cup upset.
I would expect Fax to come out firing but if Saints grab a couple of early tries it could be a cricket score. Saints to win by at least 40 if they play a full team.
Hull FC v Warrington could be a classic cup semi final. Wire have lost three of their last five games, winning only against an erratic Catalans and bottom club London. Hull have been leaking plenty points but won four out of five, and I feel they are about to hit a good run of form.
Jake Connor tends to turn up for the bigger games, especially on television, and if Albert Kelly plays I expect them to outshine Blake Austin and Dec Patton and lead Hull to victory.
Despite predicting an upturn in form for Hull, it’s hard to see Saints bottling a huge match for the second year in a row. Hopefully Hull can make a game of it but I just can’t see anything other than a St Helens win. Fingers crossed Saints then suffer the downturn in form a lot of clubs do after winning the Challenge Cup.
Robert Kenyon: Hopefully Halifax will beat Saints and whoever they draw in the final but that’s not going to happen.
I can see a Warrington v Saints final and a Warrington win mainly due to their heartbreak in last years final and Grand Final, they’re still hurting. As long as Saints don’t win a trophy I’ll be happy.
Darren Wrudd: I can not see beyond a Warrington victory against a spirited Hull FC side. Lee Radford has his team fired up for this one but Warrington just have that big game advantage. Hopefully Saints will play the same squad that London battered last week which gives a great build up to Halifax v Warrington at Wembley. Saints have history of fielding weak sides before finals (let’s hope none of the team had a sneaky bet against themselves this time), which although understandable that the delicate little scousers might break a nail and be out, it can really work against a side.
A week off mid season can take away the rhythm and a couple of early errors can shake a teams confidence, lets hope so. My prediction is a Warrington victory at Wembley after Saints fall in bits over the next few weeks.
What’s your favourite Gareth Hock memory?
Jon Lyon: Gareth Hock was a real shining light for Wigan when he burst onto the scene in 2003. Physically imposing with a really aggressive attitude, he had all the attributes to become a Wigan legend. Despite plenty of wonderful moments in the cherry and white shirt, between long term injuries, a two year drugs ban and various indiscretions on and off the pitch, there will always be a feeling of what might have been. Had Hock had a clear run in the first team he could have been one of the all time club greats.
Of many to choose from, my favourite Hock moment was at Magic Weekend against Saints in 2012. Ten minutes into the game Hock ran onto a lovely short ball 35 yards out at speed, burst through two defenders and made Paul Wellens look stupid with a ridiculous sidestep to touch down by the side of the posts.
Robert Kenyon: The first time I noticed Hock was in a game against Halifax, I’m pretty sure him and Terry Newton has a scrap with Paul Davidson and another one of their forwards, Johnny Lawless I think. There was Hock probably 17-years-old and 13 stone going toe to toe with the big boys, I knew he was tough as old boots there and then.
He was injured for a good while around 2005/2006 but when he came back from injury he stepped up a notch. I really enjoyed watching him rip the Aussies to pieces in the 2006 Tri Nations series down under, they didn’t know what to do with him. Also another game stands out, the play-off game at Widnes against Bradford in 2008? When he just ghosted through to score a try.
He was a fantastic second rower was Hock, absolutely sublime to watch as he ran good line with purpose and wanted to hurt the opposition when he did so, he also had a great offload which I like in a forward and that nasty streak as shown in another one of my favourite moments from Hock, when he scragged Louie McArthy Scarsbrook at Magic Weekend in 2011. He will be remembered fondly by all the fans, he gave us great memories.
Darren Wrudd: There are a few if I think about it. One in particular at Wakefield, picking up from dummy half tight against the left touchline, the worst dummy since Andy Farrell’s and the whole defence ran to the right leaving a walk in try. The defence he offered for his side was simply uncompromising and with ball in hand he terrorised opposition and it is this I think that endeared him the most. That feeling of excitement that absolutely anything was possible.
On his day, a world class second row forward who I will miss for his toughness, skill and sheer nasty determination.
Which player from Wigan’s past would you love to see play in the current team?
Jon Lyon: The impossible question. We have been blessed with so many legends of the game it is hard to choose just one.
As we are missing so many players in the pack through injury or otherwise I will go with the devastating Ian Roberts who made such an impression on me in his short spell with us in 1986/87. One of the hardest hitting defenders I have ever seen, he was fast for a forward and had a wonderful offload, and is just what we need as the business end of the season approaches.
Robert Kenyon: There’s players I’d love to see who would create a lot of excitement and get bums on seats like Andy Gregory, Jason Robinson or Trent Barrett or even players before my time who I’d love to get the chance to watch in their prime like Billy Boston, Eric Ashton or Jim Sullivan.
Just going off who I’ve watched and looking at what we are missing in the squad now which is a pack leader who is experienced, a hard as nails prop who will work his socks off, I’d have to go for the 2004 prop version of Andy Farrell, plus he can kick goals.
Darren Wrudd: I thought long and hard about this one as we have some real talent at Wigan at the moment and so my choice is based on not displacing a current player, more just for the chance of seeing him play. That would be Andy Gregory. The half-back who ticked every box and then some.
A superstar in his day and well justified as his vision to create something from nothing has not been matched since. In a time where all the Aussie half backs seem to get all the glory, Greg would teach them all how it should be done.
I have many favourites, Neil Cowie, Steve Renouf, Rads, Ellery, how I could go on. Now a Wigan all star team of past players would be a tough one to list... that’s ruined tonight’s sleep!