It’s put up or shut up time for Wigan Warriors.
Yes, they’ve had a steady stream of injuries that have been a hindrance to them all year, and as a result we have yet to see the best of them in 2016.
But the same applies to near enough every other team in Super League. Warrington managed to ease past the Warriors without Chris Sandow, Hull FC overcame Wigan without chief enforcer Frank Pritchard and several other clubs have been forced to cope without key players all year.
One of those clubs is their opponents on Thursday evening, the Castleford Tigers, who have had to manage without captain Michael Shenton all season and have near enough spent the duration of 2016 without Luke Dorn and Ben Roberts, three of their most influential players.
Wigan are of course five points better off than Daryl Powell’s side ahead of their trip to The Mend-A-Hose Jungle, and, excluding their decimation at the hands of Wakefield, they have done incredibly well to keep up with the chasing pack.
However, while it’s all well and good discussing injuries week in week out, it will do absolutely nothing in helping Wigan achieve what they intend to in 2016; win trophies.
In fact, the only thing that will secure Wigan the accolades they deserve are performances on the field, with or without the likes of Sean O’Loughlin and Tony Clubb.
The reality for Wigan is that their main enforcer will miss a large stretch of the year while O’Loughlin always endures problems during a campaign. But whoever wins the Grand Final at the end of the year won’t be counting up the number of injuries they suffered over the year, the only clubs that do that will be the ones that come up short.
Wigan don’t want to fall into that category, so the goal now is to put in a string of commanding performances with the 17 players they put on the field, and that must start against Cas.
The club itself has an aura around it, largely down to its history and consistent positioning near the summit of Super League. Last year, although trophy-less, was an indication of Wigan’s greatness, and people still acknowledge that when Wigan come to town. But with five defeats already this year and no ‘trademark’ performances either, it is now time for Wigan to show the rest that they are still at the top of the food chain, otherwise they face looking vulnerable.