Why Zak Hardaker predicts a sharper Wigan Warriors attack for crunch fixtures

Zak Hardaker playing at Anfield
Zak Hardaker playing at Anfield

Two consecutive games at world-famous football stadiums have highlighted a new top item on Warriors’ to-do list, according to Zak Hardaker.

Warriors failed in their bid to preserve a 10-season unbeaten run at Magic Weekend in last Saturday’s 26-14 defeat to Warrington at Anfield, coming seven days after a 33-16 loss to Catalans at Barcelona’s Camp Nou.

And following the defeat to the Wolves, which saw Warrington claim the re-instated Locker Cup, the Wigan fullback says Adrian Lam’s men need to be sharper in attack.

Wigan have a weekend off thanks to their early Challenge Cup exit ahead of trips to Hull KR, Leeds and Huddersfield, and the blank space in the calendar has provided them with extra time to work on smoothing their clunky attack.

They trained until Thursday last week and report back tomorrow to prepare for Sunday's trip to the Robins.

“We were leaking too many tries and getting rolled up the field too easily, and we’ve focused on that,” said Hardaker, despite the fact they have conceded 26 or more points in their past three games.

“But now we’re getting chances that we’re not executing – and our last kicks – and that’s what we’ll work on. We were disappointed with some of the things but we’ll go into the next block of games in a good spirit.

“If we can work on our attack and go into those games, the signs are there we can climb the ladder pretty quickly.”

Wigan are as many points from the top five play-off spots as they are from bottom club London Broncos.

But Hardaker thinks the four-point gap between them and fifth-placed Castleford can be narrowed quickly – if the players go into their next block of games with the right attitude.

“We need to treat them all as must-win, but it’s a bit of a dogfight for the top five,” he explained.

“We’re really positive, we’ve got a few days off now and I think we’ve got a few players back as well.”

One of those returning stars should be Liam Farrell, who has sat out a huge chunk of this season with a torn pectoral muscle sustained in the World Club Challenge defeat to Sydney Roosters back in February.

Hardaker says it’s hard to overstate the influence Farrell will have on his return to a pack which has had to rely on fringe players heavily, though many onlookers agree they have stood up to the test in front of them.

“Not many people may realise how influential he is,” he said.

“We’ve got Lockers leading the way in the middle, but to have him back will be great.”

Despite the unwelcome result last Saturday, which saw Wigan slip to ninth on the Super League ladder, Hardaker was positive about his side’s performance. He also explained why he thinks their defence is not to blame for their recent woes.

“For 75 per cent I felt we were the better team. They got two lucky tries – you take those off and it’s a different game,” he said. “But defensively I thought we were outstanding, and collectively it was one of our better performances.

“When things aren’t going your way and you’re losing games, those 50-50s don’t go your way.”