Will Wigan Warriors be a force in 2019? Rugby league journalists have their say

These leading rugby league journalists give their thoughts on Wigan Warriors, any concerns, and which player they are most looking forward to watching...

Wednesday, 30th January 2019, 6:18 am
Updated Wednesday, 30th January 2019, 7:28 am
Wigan Warriors 2019

Martyn Saddler (League Express, editor)

How do you think Wigan will go?

I admire Adrian Lam and I hope he does well, but it will be more difficult for them – and I think that’s good for the competition, because we need six to eight sides competing at the top.

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Steve Mascord, Martyn Saddler and Dave Craven are looking forward to seeing Jarrod Sammut play for Wigan

Is there anything about Wigan which is a concern or you’re uncertain about?

There’s a new coach, who is only there for a year, and they’ve lost two great players – so they are obvious uncertainties.

Who do you think will be the biggest climbers and sliders?

Leeds, based on their signings and new coach Dave Furner. Going down? I don’t think anyone will slide much, but probably Wigan – going from champions to fourth would be a drop.

What’s your prediction for the top five?

In order – St Helens, Warrington, Leeds, Wigan, Castleford.

Which Wigan player are you most looking forward to seeing play in 2019?

In a strange way, their most controversial signing, Jarrod Sammut. He’s immensely talented, totally unpredictable, but I don’t think Shaun Wane would have signed him so it’ll be interesting to see how he fits into the side.

Steve Mascord (Freelance journalist)

How do you think Wigan will go?

It’s easy to be conservative and say they’ll be at the Grand Final, because they’ve done so well over the last few years. But I do think they’ll do well – Adrian Lam is a good coach.

Is there anything about Wigan which is a concern or you’re uncertain about?

Any time you hand over a coaching position in advance, like Wigan have to Shaun Edwards – and give someone a caretaker role – the dynamics are a bit weird. What if they struggle? What if they win at a canter under Lam? It’s something Ian Lenagan will have to manage.

Who do you think will be the biggest climbers and sliders?

Catalans, the Cup holders, may creep up the league table – they look a strong side. Sliders? Wakefield have had a couple of decent seasons, and start the season rated lower than they finish, so I guess I’ll make the same mistake others have made over the last two years and predict them.

What’s your prediction for the top five?

Saints, Catalans, Wigan, Leeds and Warrington.

Which Wigan player are you most looking forward to seeing play in 2019?

Jarrod Sammut. I’m not sure his natural talent is appreciated as much as it should be – I watched him at London last year and he’s a freak in attack. While some fans may be under-whelmed they’ve recruited from the Championship, I think he’ll be a good signing.

Paul Bennett (League Weekly, editor)

How do you think Wigan will go?

I think they’ll do really well, it may take them some time, but Hardaker and Williams will give them some real strike. It’s Wigan; they’ll still be the same side, they’ll defend tough, they’ll be niggly and dirty... in a good way!

Is there anything about Wigan which is a concern or you’re uncertain about?

It’s not the quality of player, but the intangible aspect of losing Bateman – I’ve no qualms with Greenwood filling the role as a player, but Bateman had something else that they won’t have.

Who do you think will be the biggest climbers and sliders?

Leeds will have a reaction from last year and they’ve signed three great players. Sliders? I’m not convinced by Huddersfield – I think they may struggle.

What’s your prediction for the top five?

In order, St Helens, Warrington, Wigan, Leeds and Castleford.

Which Wigan player are you most looking forward to seeing play in 2019?

Zak Hardaker. I’m tipping him to win the Steve Prescott Man of Steel – hopefully he keeps his head screwed on.

Gary Carter (The Sun)

How do you think Wigan will go?

Wigan will stay around third, they’ve stayed level but Saints’ recruits compensate for Ben Barba’s absence and Warrington have strengthened, too. So I think Wigan will do well, but Saints and Wire may overtake them.

Is there anything about Wigan which is a concern or you’re uncertain about?

How will Zak Hardaker go – he’s starting from scratch again. He’ll take time to settle, and Wigan may take some time to adjust.

Who do you think will be the biggest climbers and sliders?

Leeds will do better. Hull FC will drop, they’ve not signed any new players, injuries are already kicking in and they’ll have a hangover from last year’s finish.

What’s your prediction for the top five?

In order, Warrington, Saints, Wigan, Leeds and Catalans.

Which Wigan player are you most looking forward to seeing play in 2019?

George Williams. I really want to see what impact Lammy’s coaching has on him – he’s already one of the best in Super League, can Lammy take him to the next level?

Matt Shaw (Rugby League World magazine editor)

How do you think Wigan will go?

I think they’ll be okay. I don’t think they should be under-estimated – they’ve not recruited heavily, they’re probably behind Warrington and Saints.

Is there anything about Wigan which is a concern or you’re uncertain about?

When you lose players of the magnitude they have, it’s a cause for concern and naturally there’s a question-mark with Zak about is there another drama coming? And Jarrod Sammut, if we’re cynical, has never really done it in Super League – how will he go?

Who do you think will be the biggest climbers and sliders?

I think Catalans have recruited well, the players they’ve brought it will get rid of their soft underbelly. I don’t think Cas’ will be as strong, certainly without Luke Gale, although I think they’ll be okay and will probably finish fifth.

What’s your prediction for the top five?

Warrington, Saints, Wigan, Leeds, Catalans.

Which Wigan player are you most looking forward to seeing play in 2019?

George Williams. I don’t think he kicked on last year as much as I thought he would – but the coaching change may suit him. And the other is Dom Manfredi; he has the potential to be in the top three wingers in world rugby league.

Ray French (ex-BBC, League Weekly)

How do you think Wigan will go?

I think they’ll come through at the end and will be contenders among the honours – no question about it. But I think Saints will do well and Warrington will be the team to beat.

Is there anything about Wigan which is a concern or you’re uncertain about?

Wigan have lost Tomkins and Bateman and so I think they may take some time to get themselves reorganised.

Who do you think will be the biggest climbers and sliders?

Leeds have made three very good signings and will be a bigger threat. I don’t think Wakefield will slide as such, but they may get overtaken.

What’s your prediction for the top five?

Saints, Warrington, Leeds, Wigan and Castleford.

Which Wigan player are you most looking forward to seeing play in 2019?

George Williams. I like him, he’s strong, he’s not afraid to take the line on – he can play in a pattern but he’s also an exciting individual.

John Davidson (freelance journalist)

How do you think Wigan will go?

I think they’ll be up there again – Joe Bullock looks a shrewd signing, Adrian Lam is a very talented coach, and over a long season, they will be able to call on their depth when injuries begin to bite.

Is there anything about Wigan which is a concern or you’re uncertain about?

Zak Hardaker’s track record is an obvious concern, but if he can avoid any dramas they could have one of the best players in the competition.

Who do you think will be the biggest climbers and sliders?

I think it will take Leeds time to hit their straps but they’ll be better, and Catalans will push on. Cas’ may be a big slider – especially with Luke Gale out.

What’s your prediction for the top five?

In no order, St Helens, Warrington, Wigan, Leeds and Wakefield.

Which Wigan player are you most looking forward to seeing play in 2019?

I do like Gabe Hamlin – not just for his ‘The Hammer’ nickname that you are trying to give him! But it’s great to see a young Aussie coming over here, he showed he has a lot of potential last year and hopefully he can go one better this time.

Dave Craven (Yorkshire Post):

How do you think Wigan will go?

I think they will go well, I’m interested to see how Zak Hardaker goes and they’ve obviously got a new coach – I’m expecting it to be a tight battle at the top this year, and I think Wigan will be among them.

Is there anything about Wigan which is a concern or you’re uncertain about?

Not really. I know they’ve lost a few but the bedrock of the team is still there – and Sam Tomkins has been replaced by Zak Hardaker.

Who do you think will be the biggest climbers and sliders?

Leeds, although they have a tough start. They have made so many quality signings I think they’re bound to come good.

I don’t see any big sliders, I imagine Wakefield to drop a couple of places.

What’s your prediction for the top five?

In no particular order, Wigan, St Helens, Leeds, Warrington and Castleford.

Which Wigan player are you most looking forward to seeing play in 2019?

Jarrod Sammut has always been a maverick, I watched him closely at Bradford and Wakefield. He’s a left-field signing but I want to see what he can do at a big club.