Garry Schofield thinks a change of coach may be necessary for Wigan to maintain their winning ways while also adding a bit of flair and excitement to their game.
I never thought I’d find myself writing this, given my Leeds connections, but I actually feel sorry for Wigan fans.
Because the way I see it, their performances are one long yawn, and it goes back quite a few seasons and quite a few coaches.
Yes, this year the Warriors have won six out of six in Super League but where’s the entertainment value?
Supporters were spoiled in the late eighties and nineties, when the cherry and white ribbons seemed to be on virtually every piece of silverware going.
Coaches like Graham Lowe, John Monie and Graeme West moulded some marvellous teams who were full of talented players like Andy Gregory, Gary Connolly and Shaun Edwards, and were great to watch.
In more recent times, Shaun Wane brought a fair bit of success, with a World Club Challenge, three Super League titles and a Challenge Cup.
But it was far more about functionality than flair, and it’s been the same under Adrian Lam.
That dull, repetitive style of play was started by Michael Maguire, to whom Shaun was assistant before stepping up, and unfortunately, it now seems to be part of Wigan’s DNA.
As I say virtually every week, I want to watch creative players conjuring fluent attacking moves, not an ‘arm wrestle’ and a team going through their ‘processes’.
I know plenty of sides take that approach to a degree, but Wigan are the worst for it, and now Sean O’Loughlin has retired, they’ve lost a forward who did have the ability to come up with something a bit different.
Of course defence is important, and it’s not chance that the top two in the current table, St Helens and Wigan, have conceded only 34 and 56 points respectively, the two lowest totals among the twelve teams.
But Warrington, Catalans, Castleford and Saints, in that order, have all scored more than Wigan’s 111, and the tallies for both Hull and Hull KR are just six less.
They all play a more attractive brand of rugby, and in their recent Challenge Cup quarter-final meeting, Hull showed that when Wigan are played at their own forwards-orientated game, they don’t have a Plan B.
The Black and Whites fully deserved the win which ended one of only two opportunities for Wigan to win a trophy this year.
It was the same when Leeds rolled them over in the semi-finals last season.
Lam is out of contract this year, and I can’t really see him staying.
Should that be the case, I’d love to see them go for Tony Smith – sorry Hull KR fans – or Ricky Stuart.
Tony is hugely experienced and he accepts the game is about entertaining was well as being successful, and his teams are almost always good to watch.
And I know Ricky has a contract until 2023, but he’s been at Canberra for a long time now, and perhaps a change of scenery would appeal.
Were he to come, and I believe he has a liking for England, he might maximise the value of John Bateman to the team, having got a real tune out of him at the Raiders, because we certainly haven’t seen the best of him in his second spell at Wigan.
We all know John is a top-quality operator, after all.
Wishing a speedy recovery to Tom Johnstone
I’d like to wish Tom Johnstone all the best as he waits to see a specialist over concussion-related issues.
He came off after taking a knock to the head in the second match of the season, and any ongoing issues are bound to be a concern.
Tom is a terrific player, and I well remember his super try for Trinity at home to Huddersfield back in 2016.
I was watching from the main stand as he received the ball near the Wakefield try line. It was a case of a couple of bits of clever footwork and see you later as he shot down the touchline nearest to us all the way to the opposite end.
Martin Offiah came to mind, and Tom is another of those players you want to watch, because he is so entertaining.
He has also had knee problems, making his career tally of more than 70 tries all the more impressive.
Just think how many he might have had if he hadn’t had those spells on the sidelines.
He’s a big miss for Trinity, but his health has to come first, and as I say, hopefully we’ll see him back soon and hopefully pushing for a place in the England squad for the World Cup.
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