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Wigan...an analysis


JohnM
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17 minutes ago, JohnM said:

I agree with this part of the article: "It's easy to over-react"

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"We are easily breakable, by illness or falling, or a million other ways of leaving this earthly life. We are just so much mashed potato."  Don Estelle

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1 hour ago, Futtocks said:

I agree with this part of the article: "It's easy to over-react"

Interesting only one comment posted on the website, apathy at best. But he mentioned the sky commentators how they rabble on about something even the most ardent viewers struggle to agree with. Watching Fridays game as a neutral with my wife and even she shouted I wish they would shut up so we can watch the game. I like Terry and Barry but they are doing the game no favours with their nonstop drivel. 

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I'd agree with parts of it but it's a little over the top and sensationalist. The writer makes out how bad things are but then contradicts himself at the end with a point I was thinking reading it, namely that things have been far worse. The club structurally is far stronger than it was back in the 2000s.

There are major issues though and he is spot on with some of them. The policy of thinking everyone is replaceable has been downright disastrous and something that fans have been warning against for years. Young players seem to see the club as merely a stepping stone and that is a direct consequence of the culture the club has created. The aura has certainly gone and stalwarts like O'Loughlin and Liam Farrell are from a different era. No one club players have really come through to replace these. More recent players that have come through have come and gone. All the good ones seem to leave before their peak. I am sick of letting players go with a free pass of signing them back if it doesn't work out. None come back better.

As a club we should be bigger and better than that. Wigan as a club in the late 80s and 90s strived to be the best in the world, bar none. I know the salary cap comes into this but it certainly is a tough sell when standards decline so much. Continually seeing the best players being sold with a string of 2nd rate NRL imports and cheap English players replacing them isn't going to entice fans back, certainly not to a 16k average. Stars put bums on seats.

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1 hour ago, ELBOWSEYE said:

Interesting only one comment posted on the website, apathy at best. But he mentioned the sky commentators how they rabble on about something even the most ardent viewers struggle to agree with. Watching Fridays game as a neutral with my wife and even she shouted I wish they would shut up so we can watch the game. I like Terry and Barry but they are doing the game no favours with their nonstop drivel. 

Bazza and Terry are dreadful 

I long for the days of Andrew Voss. 

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2 hours ago, Futtocks said:

I agree with this part of the article: "It's easy to over-react"

Yes, especially given the same author wrote this article two weeks ago.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle. I do not think Wigan will get to the Grand Final and win it this season, their record against top six teams suggests they are not capable of that. Their performances have been tame and very much away from what you would associate with Wigan.

Saying that, with Lam almost certain to leave at the end of the year and Wane to come back in, that will bring improvement. If Wigan are able to sign a couple of experienced forwards, and crucially, a replacement for Hastings, they will be challenging again. Recruitment at Wigan has been mixed (at best) for a few years and going forward this will decide whether they respond.

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I wasn't going to comment as it would be a largely miserable moan with no redeeming features. I've no idea why I thought this would be unacceptable. 

So, about 25, 30 years ago? Cas beat Wigan in a league match. The report in the Rugby Leaguer? consisted of 4 paragraphs over half a page. Cas didn't get a mention in the report till halfway down the third paragraph. 

And here we are today talking about a team who lost the GF in the last moments of the game who are currently 4th in the table. 

I'd like to think the game was stronger than this but then again  I am mostly grumpy these days.

TESTICULI AD  BREXITAM.

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58 minutes ago, corvusxiii said:

I wasn't going to comment as it would be a largely miserable moan with no redeeming features. I've no idea why I thought this would be unacceptable. 

So, about 25, 30 years ago? Cas beat Wigan in a league match. The report in the Rugby Leaguer? consisted of 4 paragraphs over half a page. Cas didn't get a mention in the report till halfway down the third paragraph. 

And here we are today talking about a team who lost the GF in the last moments of the game who are currently 4th in the table. 

I'd like to think the game was stronger than this but then again  I am mostly grumpy these days.

I agree entirely. We get a disproportionate amount of attention from the press. Change the coach, field some big lads and we will be fine. 

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1 hour ago, Exiled Wiganer said:

I agree entirely. We get a disproportionate amount of attention from the press. Change the coach, field some big lads and we will be fine. 

I guess your correct from a competitive team with the others in SL  but will that bring in the fans and increase the attendances significantly.

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40 minutes ago, redjonn said:

I guess your correct from a competitive team with the others in SL  but will that bring in the fans and increase the attendances significantly.

Personally, I think Wigan have completely taken their eye off the ball as a business. As a (minuscule) shareholder, I am amazed and saddened that we are turning ourselves into a youth club rather than a club that aspires to greatness; the club was created for the purpose of fielding a strong first team, and the spectators know what that looks like. As I have mentioned elsewhere, this administration seems to believe that spending millions on community initiatives and developing our home grown talent (whom we happily let go as soon as they do well) is a sensible model.

That has never been the Wigan way before - thousands of Wigan people will pay to watch Brett Kenny play, with respect only his closest family and friends ever paid to watch Martin Foy.

They just need to look at the approach that has worked for decades - people want to be entertained, not see a glorified Academy side, and don’t care where they come from. We had Kenny for half a season but his performances inspired years of followers. A Jamie Lyon or Ben Barba would put thousands on the average overnight. If we want to get people through the door, campaign to ditch the salary cap, ditch all the “development” initiatives - that’s the RFL’s job, not ours - and get in whoever we can from wherever we can. 

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45 minutes ago, redjonn said:

I guess your correct from a competitive team with the others in SL  but will that bring in the fans and increase the attendances significantly.

There is a good point here. To be competitive should be good enough for any team. For some teams that is not good enough. Some sort of disproportionate success is required, whatever the diminution to the rest of the competition. 

A competitive league isn't deemed good enough. 

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TESTICULI AD  BREXITAM.

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8 minutes ago, Exiled Wiganer said:

Personally, I think Wigan have completely taken their eye off the ball as a business. As a (minuscule) shareholder, I am amazed and saddened that we are turning ourselves into a youth club rather than a club that aspires to greatness; the club was created for the purpose of fielding a strong first team, and the spectators know what that looks like. As I have mentioned elsewhere, this administration seems to believe that spending millions on community initiatives and developing our home grown talent (whom we happily let go as soon as they do well) is a sensible model.

That has never been the Wigan way before - thousands of Wigan people will pay to watch Brett Kenny play, with respect only his closest family and friends ever paid to watch Martin Foy.

They just need to look at the approach that has worked for decades - people want to be entertained, not see a glorified Academy side, and don’t care where they come from. We had Kenny for half a season but his performances inspired years of followers. A Jamie Lyon or Ben Barba would put thousands on the average overnight. If we want to get people through the door, campaign to ditch the salary cap, ditch all the “development” initiatives - that’s the RFL’s job, not ours - and get in whoever we can from wherever we can. 

I thought you were on a wind up the first time you posted this. But apparently not 😐

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2 minutes ago, M j M said:

I thought you were on a wind up the first time you posted this. But apparently not 😐

It is a simple enough argument - a club who can field an Ellery Hanley will inspire more people to watch in person, and on the TV, and to become involved in the game than any number of one week training camps lead by, with respect, well meaning sporting nobodies.

I have only been following Wigan for 40 odd years, but I have relatives who have been following us for over 80 years, and love our club to bits. And who inspires them - Billy Boston, Jim Sullivan, Martin Offiah, Brett Kenny, and the greatest of all, Ellery. None of them Wiganers.  

Watching these players is what inspires people to join clubs, buy boots, throw a ball around. I don’t wish to denigrate the well meaning efforts of many associated with the club, but they are wasting everyone’s time and millions of pounds if they think that the best way forward is for Wigan to develop Academy players, for them to leave as soon as they get the chance. Ferguson and Kenny were here for barely a full season between them, but they left an indelible mark on the club and its supporters. We are in the entertainment business, and we aren’t doing any entertaining. 

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38 minutes ago, Exiled Wiganer said:

Personally, I think Wigan have completely taken their eye off the ball as a business. As a (minuscule) shareholder, I am amazed and saddened that we are turning ourselves into a youth club rather than a club that aspires to greatness; the club was created for the purpose of fielding a strong first team, and the spectators know what that looks like. As I have mentioned elsewhere, this administration seems to believe that spending millions on community initiatives and developing our home grown talent (whom we happily let go as soon as they do well) is a sensible model.

That has never been the Wigan way before - thousands of Wigan people will pay to watch Brett Kenny play, with respect only his closest family and friends ever paid to watch Martin Foy.

They just need to look at the approach that has worked for decades - people want to be entertained, not see a glorified Academy side, and don’t care where they come from. We had Kenny for half a season but his performances inspired years of followers. A Jamie Lyon or Ben Barba would put thousands on the average overnight. If we want to get people through the door, campaign to ditch the salary cap, ditch all the “development” initiatives - that’s the RFL’s job, not ours - and get in whoever we can from wherever we can. 

Whilst I agree with the general sentiment I completely disagree that the club shouldn't be doing those things. There is no reason the club can't be doing both and it should be doing both. The best Wigan teams have always had a blend of home grown players and stars. The trouble at the moment is that balance has gone.

It should be doing youth development and it should be doing all the great community work that it does. When attendances are declining it would certainly be mad to ditch the community work, that entices the next generation of fans and a strong community game helps the club greatly. The more people playing, watching and involved in Rugby League the better it is for Wigan.

Bad recruitment and retention isn't incompatible with that. Neither is the stupid logic of everyone being replaceable or giving players a free pass to come back. That is just shocking from the club and Radlinksi and Lenegan have to take their share of the blame for that.

 

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9 minutes ago, Exiled Wiganer said:

 I don’t wish to denigrate the well meaning efforts of many associated with the club, but they are wasting everyone’s time and millions of pounds if they think that the best way forward is for Wigan to develop Academy players, for them to leave as soon as they get the chance. Ferguson and Kenny were here for barely a full season between them, but they left an indelible mark on the club and its supporters. We are in the entertainment business, and we aren’t doing any entertaining. 

Two points from the above - 

Wigan haven't been much in the entertainment business since Michael Maguire pioneered anti-Rugby. That's something the club can address with its coaching appointments as much as anything else. Reappointing Wane as it seems they've done isn't going to fix that although it may put a bit of backbone into the team.

Secondly I think you need to ask exactly why it is that Wigan academy products appear to want to leave the club more often than their contemporaries at the other big clubs. Of course you're going to struggle to build a dominant team whilst that keeps happening. The NRL will be appealing for some for sure but there doesn't seem to be much on the other side of the equation that makes players want to stay. And that to me suggests some sort of cultural issues at the club.

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9 minutes ago, M j M said:

Two points from the above - 

Wigan haven't been much in the entertainment business since Michael Maguire pioneered anti-Rugby. That's something the club can address with its coaching appointments as much as anything else. Reappointing Wane as it seems they've done isn't going to fix that although it may put a bit of backbone into the team.

Secondly I think you need to ask exactly why it is that Wigan academy products appear to want to leave the club more often than their contemporaries at the other big clubs. Of course you're going to struggle to build a dominant team whilst that keeps happening. The NRL will be appealing for some for sure but there doesn't seem to be much on the other side of the equation that makes players want to stay. And that to me suggests some sort of cultural issues at the club.

You may be right, on both counts, but my central argument remains the same - the only thing that should matter to Wigan Rugby League Football Club Ltd is first team success, and employing dozens of people to do “development” seems (purely from where I am sitting) to be at best draining resources to no ostensible benefit, and at worst leading the club on a downward spiral. The bottom line is that we would get far better crowds if we had star overseas players in a winning or even entertaining side than fielding the dozen home grown “god loves a trier” players we currently have. Looking over the Hill, I don’t remember Scunthorpe and Long having gone to Cowley...

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35 minutes ago, Exiled Wiganer said:

You may be right, on both counts, but my central argument remains the same - the only thing that should matter to Wigan Rugby League Football Club Ltd is first team success, and employing dozens of people to do “development” seems (purely from where I am sitting) to be at best draining resources to no ostensible benefit, and at worst leading the club on a downward spiral. The bottom line is that we would get far better crowds if we had star overseas players in a winning or even entertaining side than fielding the dozen home grown “god loves a trier” players we currently have. Looking over the Hill, I don’t remember Scunthorpe and Long having gone to Cowley...

Well the community stuff is inherent to the club being a functioning member of Super League and is simply not something that should be cut back on to achieve success.

More on point I'm sorry but you're going to have to stop living in the past. The salary cap is a fact and no matter how much you or your club may never have reconciled yourselves to it, it's not going anywhere. The league, fortunately, isn't run for the benefit of Wiganers seeking a return to their one-sided glory days (least of all I would say when that club were the poster boys for the sort of financial mismanagement which saw the cap's introduction in the first place). 

And in a salary capped sport it's really difficult to win stuff without a hard-core of club-produced players who are inevitably more cost effective than players brought into the club. It's very much the right way to run your club but if the quality of young players or coaching isn't right the answer lies internally.

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Having a strong academy is one of the biggest advantages any team can have in Super League. It basically gives you strong squad depth for less money, as it's easier to keep hold of homegrown youngsters and give gradual salary increases than try to sign squad players from other clubs where you're more likely to have to outbid other clubs. The problem Wigan seem to have is that we're trying to use the academy to fill our starting line up, not just fill out the squad. Too much responsibility has been put on the shoulders of young players who shouldn't be in that position. In years gone by we'd give plenty of first team debuts to players but generally only one or two youngsters per year would establish themselves in the first team. They had to play really well to keep their place. This season we seem to have gone into it fully expecting 20 and 21 year olds to take the role of established first team players.

At the end of last season we played quite well. We must have done to finish 1st and push Saints so close in the Grand Final. For me, we were flattered slightly by last season because it was clear we were too reliant on French and Hastings for our attack. We also lost a couple of experienced players in O'Loughlin and Flower who might not have been too threatening with ball in hand but they were outstanding defensively. Clubb was in a similar position. Last year he had just enough in the tank to do a 15 minute stint with excellent defence. Then we had Singleton who hadn't played many games so was relatively fresh and Bullock in good form. From that point, we've lost so much in 2021.

French's injury robbed us of one of our key attacking threats and it's now painfully obvious how much we relied on him. Now it's just Hastings carrying the team creatively. Ideally the club would looked to strengthen our attacking options but in reality we signed a fringe NRL player due to contract uncertainty with Hastings and French and then ended up having no idea where to play him - then he got injured in his first game.

Having lost a lot of experience down the middle, and releasing Burgess from his marquee contract, there was clearly a need to strengthen the front row. It was mentioned often in press conferences but it seems clear there's been absolutely no real attempt to bring anyone in. Instead Lam decided that Partington, Havard, Byrne, Smithies and Shorrocks were now just going to be thrust into the first team as regular starters. It didn't matter if they struggled. It didn't matter if they looked absolutely shattered, they were going to play.

Some young forwards do become stars very early, but they tend to be the exception. What happens with most that go on to become good players is that they either have some outstanding games mixed with some quiet games, and basically reach their peak by becoming more consistent, or they gradually improve over time. By throwing all the young forwards into the same team at the same time there's no allowance for these things. I've seen Wigan fans critical of Havard because he's had quite a few quiet games this year. He's also had quite a few very good games this year. Havard is exactly where you expect someone of his age and potential to be. It's just that he should be 3rd or 4th choice prop. His quiet games should largely go unnoticed at this age because it's lost among good performances by the experienced props. Instead when Havard doesn't play well it's noticeable. It's a problem for Wigan because no one else steps up.

Not only do we have an issue with too many young forwards with too much responsibility, we also have a team with too many players whose only real place in the team is the same position. The emergence of Kai Pearce-Paul has forced Bateman to move to 13. Not necessarily a bad idea. Except our 13 for most of the season was Partington, who is too small for a prop (especially in our already small pack) but can be a good defensive-minded 13. But then where does Smithies play, because he's a ordinarily a 13. Too small for a prop but an ideal 13 with a great work rate. So Lam is now trying to fit 3 13's into the team. But wait. The only Wigan forward to have played every game this year is Joe Shorrocks. Yep, the most natural 13 of the lot. At the start of the year he was the one most likely to miss out. Now he's one of our best performing players every week. So that's 4 13's, all too small to play prop, all too good to be dropped. And if it wasn't for our injuries in the outside backs Lam would be trying to fit Isa into the mix too, and with him being another guaranteed starter and both second row places taken, guess where'd he'd be likely to play!

I can understand the club not wanting to part with any of these promising players because it's a long season and injuries are inevitable, but we've literally got a team full of back row forwards but a front row that's not fit for purpose. Poor recruitment and poor team management. As I mentioned on another thread, rather than take an opportunity to balance the squad when one of our back rowers comes off contract, we look likely to re-sign Isa. Yet the back row isn't the area we desperately need experience or more depth.

We're losing Clubb, Bullock and probably Clark next season and replacing them with two overseas signings. So that's one less in the position we're weakest but admittedly that's fine if the two replacements become guaranteed first teamers. Except there's a problem. Neither Patrick Mago or Kaide Ellis are established props at their respective clubs. They don't carry much expectation. They aren't pack leaders. They don't even seem to play long minutes. Those are things that prop forwards would need to do at Wigan for the front row to improve. If they end up being like-for-like replacements rather than players who can really dominate and play consistently well then nothing will improve.

The truth is the article is right about some poor recruitment, but there have been some good signings too. Hastings and French two perfect examples. It's not a case that we consistently recruit poorly, but that we consistently let good players leave. If we make two signings, one might work out, one might be a dud. That's not unusual. Recruitment is difficult. But if you let 2 good players leave and only one good player replaces them then it's obvious a reduction in quality is happening. Wigan seem to be trying to plug that gap by hanging on to players who've been around a while but aren't good enough, and by chucking in the young players before they've actually reached a good enough level of performance.

As for the off the field stuff. I've mentioned recruitment, but there are other things that make it feel like the club is in decline. Things started going downhill when Mick Hogan left. The year after he departed we had our highest average attendance figure in Super League. Season tickets would have been bought the year before while he was at the club. At that time the club looked to be going in the right direction. It looked like we'd be challenging Leeds for the highest average attendance. But once he left things deteriorated. The marketing of games didn't evolve. It became repetitive and then seemingly non-existent. Player retention and coaching appointments seem to have become about who is already close to the club rather than who can offer something positive.

The debacle of announcing Edwards as coach only for it to turn out he didn't sign a contract made the club look embarrassing. Gradually, Wigan has stopped being an attractive proposition for players, but also for fans. The expectation is that things are only going to get worse. That might seem unfair, but that pessimism was around even last year when we finished top of the league. This season just seems to be proving the pessimists right.

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I won’t quote EEP, as it was such a long post, but I am not convinced by the central thrust. The club’s problems - as clearly identified - are a direct result of believing that there is an inherent advantage in developing and relying on our own players. That has been the club’s focus, and it has lead to massive disinterest and an unfair reliance on players who are simply not good enough simply because we “developed” them. We are getting the wrong answers because we are asking the wrong questions - the only question the board should ask is how can they get star players on the field. Forget where they come from. Every hour spent on anything else is an hour wasted. I am not suggesting that we ditch our Academy entirely, though I would be happy enough with a Wigan Borough approach, but that we should instead invest in the first team’s success instead of carrying out “community” development, or other non first team activities. 

I agree that marketing needs to be improved, but it’s far far easier to do that if you have star players to sell. You can have as many fancy dress themed game nights as you like, but Wiganers will only come out every week to watch players like Amos Roberts rather than Liam Byrne. Ditch everything non core, invest in the best possible coach, and entertaining stars, and then market them. We have plenty of resources to do all of that, but are deliberately choosing to try to sell an Academy side as first team for a major club. And fewer and fewer people are being fooled by it. 

Incidentally, I think this is a mistake the whole game is making - wasn’t it Hearn who looked at us as a sport and concluded that we had no stars? He was dead right. 

With the NRL having cut off the rest of the world, and seeing us solely as a feeder league, and union having left us far far behind, then, unless we as a club and a game aim high again, we are toast as a sport. 

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Interesting reading and I guess ultimately its about balance. It seems to me if Wigan's attendances are declining over many years then its a fair question as why. One reason may be as Exiled Wiganer says in his comments... the balance or where the primary focus is may not be right.

The Salary Cap is for sure a reality for all clubs and Wigan but the level of it is stifling the top of the sport. That is another whole discussion but for me is one of the major factors to question of their declining attendance.

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2 hours ago, corvusxiii said:

There is a good point here. To be competitive should be good enough for any team. For some teams that is not good enough. Some sort of disproportionate success is required, whatever the diminution to the rest of the competition. 

A competitive league isn't deemed good enough. 

Not sure that having a competitive league means better entertainment on the field to bring in the fan base we need as a sport.

It may be an extra component but their is more to it to excite interest. Except maybe for some fans of clubs in that  potentially boring competitive league as distinct from increasing demand through exciting entertainment. Yep. I'm just being a little extreme to make the point and whilst today SL is not a boringly competitive league it sometimes seems more boring than should be or could be.

To add - I think Wigan will always make the payoffs every year and more than likely often make the GF or CCF... but don't think that in itself will bring any significantly  higher Wigan attendance if it remains as is today.

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