The 18th Man Column: Nou Camp venture is best decision in ages

Catalans Dragons in their Nou Camp kit
Catalans Dragons in their Nou Camp kit

Wigan Warriors fans have their say

Wigan at the Nou Camp – how big is this in terms of Super League’s history?

Robert Kenyon: It’s massive, with the expected 40,000 plus crowd it’s massive.

Barcelona will be full of tourists and day trippers looking for something to do, they’ll be from all over the world and anything associated with Barcelona FC will get the punters in.

With the football season over there will be people going to visit the stadium for a tour, finding there’s a game on a going to watch it and experiencing rugby league for the first time, with the name Catalans the Catalonian people should get behind them with Catalonian independence high on the agenda. They should do this every year, maybe even have Magic Weekend there next year.

Jon Lyon: This game is historic, and it’s apt that the Super League holders are playing the Challenge Cup holders. This is a great chance for us to advertise our sport in the region and hopefully a Catalans team will attract plenty local support.

If i was organising the game, bearing in mind the size of the stadium, I’d be giving away free tickets to every school in the area to maximise the crowd. There’s no point having a two thirds empty stadium, we need to make the most of it.

Darren Wrudd: If you wanted to put the game onto the big stage and push boundaries of who watches our great game, this could be up there with the best decisions that our game has seen for a long time.

Two established teams, both attracting much attention in their own right, playing at one of the finest stadiums in Europe.

Barcelona tweeted their followers when the tickets were on sale – all 44 million of them!

I just hope that the spectacle is a shining light for the game and well supported on the day.

Jeanette Lusher: Wigan at the Nou Camp is an historical landmark that depicts the games expansion and justifies the decision to bring Catalans into Super League. The event recognises that rugby league in the northern hemisphere has been taken out of the Lancashire/Yorkshire confines and puts the sport on the global map. The game will attract a curious audience and will surely increase the rugby league support in France and Spain. Hopefully it will be a further step towards the realisation worldwide that rugby league quite simply is the greatest game on earth.

What are you expecting from the game?

Robert Kenyon: I’m expecting a showcase of rugby league, something to show the world how good we are as a sport. I’m expecting to kick on from the Warrington game and go out and get the win, now we have sorted our defence out and our attack is looking better we can keep building momentum.

I’m hoping this is the first of many at the Camp Nou, I also hope we win some new fans over, some Spanish ones so we can tap into that market too, forget Hull KR away on a Thursday night in March, let’s have Benidorm Broncos instead, that wouldn’t be a bad away trip.

What I would say is whoever is reffing needs to but out or back off, like State of Origin or Test Matches this is the big stage to a new audience, we don’t want a stop/start game with the ref being centre of attention, they need to let most things go and let the game flow. I don’t want the ref involved, in fact let’s give him a dud whistle then we will be guaranteed a good game.

Jon Lyon: Presuming the weather is good it should be a fantastic game. Both teams are capable of throwing the ball around and scoring from distance.

Catalans will have the home support but there will be plenty fans from Wigan making a noise. After our improvement against Warrington I expect us to edge a high scoring game.

Darren Wrudd: I expect to see a fast paced game, with passion sometimes saved for the finals. The Catalans wearing their special shirt are obviously gunning for the local supporter but like many of the big football clubs, Wigan have a great following abroad and so there should be a good mix – not to mention the several thousand we will be taking along with us.

Not sure that the timing has worked out so well though, a big Challenge Cup loss last weekend will have drained players emotionally whilst the following week, Magic weekend may be a game too far after the excitement of the Camp Nou. Time will tell though and if we play as hard as we did last week, we won’t be far off come the final hooter.

Jeanette Lusher: I expect a very tough, no quarter given type of game very similar to last week’s cup match.

I feel that the shorter turnaround, the “home” advantage and the fact that our lads had to endure much tougher opposition in the cup favours Catalans. This game will show just how fit and resilient our lads are as it will be played at pace on a dry pitch against much bigger players. The atmosphere will be like a cup final and the venue will surely have the nerves jangling. The Dragons will be desperate to win this game and will play with pride and fervour for it is history in the making for the Catalan people and for the game of rugby league in their country. Our lads will need to be both mentally and physically switched on for this match. I am, however, quietly confident that we will secure the win as team belief is on the rise, defence is in place and attack is coming to fruition with each passing game.

Rewind to Sunday: Should it have been a try?

Robert Kenyon: Which one? One was a legitimate try and was disallowed, one was a double movement but they gave it, absolutely bonkers. The video ref had a shocker on Sunday.

Jon Lyon: I am still stunned the try wasn’t given. A knock on is supposed to be when a player deliberately attempts to play at the ball. Leuluai’s head was on the other side of the player he tackled and couldn’t see the ball, let alone play at it deliberately. It was a sensational tackle and a wonderful move to score and the officials got it badly wrong, as they did ignoring Sarginson’s double movement later in the game, which appeared to be “evening-up” the earlier mistake. If that was the case that is awful refereeing.

Darren Wrudd: Yes, without a doubt. Analysing the rule and the video playback, if a defender knocks the ball forward ‘after’ it has left the hands of a passing attacking opponent, then it is a knock on.

The ball had not left the grasp of the attacker, so it came out in the tackle. Also, the decision went up from the referee as a try.

After having re-watched the incident 10 or 11 times, surely there was not sufficient evidence to say conclusively that it was a no try, or he would have watched it twice and said so.

Bit of a disgrace really and indicative of the RFL having endemic bias away from the decisions that concern Wigan. Perhaps still on the payback trail for Mr Lenagan’s hand in the appointment of Robert Elstone to help sort out the game.

Jeanette Lusher: Under technical scrutiny it was a no try but to the human eye it was an awesome try!

It was most certainly worthy of being given a try as effort such as Tommy’s deserved to be rewarded. It’s what our sport is about – toughness, power and determination. Many pundits have suggested that Sarginson’s try was a double movement and was given by the video referee to compensate for the harshness of the earlier call! Surely not as this would imply total incompetence in the entire system! There are two things of which I despair in this matter, one being the video referee not available at every game and the other being the rule whereby the on field referee makes his call before passing it up to the video referee! What an absolute palaver! Let’s keep it simple and get back to old school ways leaving all decisions to the human eye of the on field referee.

Which is the best stadium you’ve ever seen Wigan play in, and why?

Robert Kenyon: Central Park, because it was ours and it had history and character. I’ve been to Wembley, Murrayfield, Cardiff, Old Trafford and The Etihad to watch Wigan and they’re all great stadiums, but it’s got to be Central Park. I used to really enjoy Knowsley Road as there was always a fantastic atmosphere in the away end. Though the big stadiums have been all seater since the early ‘90s I think that takes away from the atmosphere, you can’t go and stand with the singers and make the atmosphere better, I think that’s why I prefer the old grounds, even though they were old asbestos sheds that were falling to pieces they were better.

Jon Lyon: The old Wembley had the best aura about it. Maybe because I was much younger when I first went there but it had a really special feel to it that isn’t there any more.

The stadium I enjoyed the most, possibly because of the game and result against all the odds was Murrayfield in 2002. The Radlinski final was a special day for Wigan fans and I was sorry when the cup finals were subsequently moved to Cardiff, a much inferior stadium and city in my opinion.

Darren Wrudd: It really has to be Wembley doesn’t it? Before the new Wembley was built, our second home for a trip each year or so it felt. But now that the new Stadium is up and running I think it has a wonderful feel to it and an historic presence hangs over the place. Emotion comes into this a lot and trips down to London with my wife Glenda have seen some of the happiest memories to look back on with many more to come with luck, although not this year. For me our National Stadium pips Old Trafford to the crown and I can’t wait to get back down there.

Jeanette Lusher: WEMBERLEE! WEMBERLEE! WEMBERLEE! That is to say the old Wembley! Those awesome twin tower landmarks and the joy and anticipation as you strode up Wembley Way!

The fun, the banter, the celebrity spotting! So much excitement before you even saw a blade of grass! The spine tingling moment when you got your first sight of the pitch – its size, its lushness, its aura, its sheer perfection! It was our second home for so many special years and for me will always be synonymous with our glorious history.