As the Super League season kick-off draws closer, we look at how the Wigan Warriors will go in 2018.
After what was a celeberatory start to 2017 for Wigan – it soon went downhill, and fast. They will be looking for vast improvement in 2018, one that will end with at least one major trophy.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Gabriel Hamlin (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Dan Sarginson (Gold Coast Titans)
Nick Gregson (Leigh Centurions), Kyle Shelford (Swinton Lions), Lewis Tierney (Catalans Dragons), Michael McIlorum (Catalan Dragons), Anthony Gelling (New Zealand Warriors)
FIRST FIVE (in the league)
Salford (A), Hull FC (A), Warrington (A), Widnes (H) and Wakefield (H)
WHAT TO EXPECT
This is a very big season for Shaun Wane and Wigan Warriors. There’s a little bit of pressure on the head coach in 2018, with a lot of fans becoming rather unsettled. It’s no secret that Wigan have lacked with their attacking style, this last couple of years – and fans have been screaming out for a change. Finally, that looks to be happening this year. With Michael McIlorum leaving Wigan for the South of France, Wane looks set to use Tommy Leuluai as his new hooker, and using either of Sam Tomkins or Morgan Escare in the halves with George Williams. It could be the new, fresh partnership the Cherry and Whites need to kick-start this new campaign. Fans will be hopeful of at least one major trophy this season, if not more. Wigan should be aiming to push for a top two spot in the league, while maybe going one step further in the Challenge Cup.
Since returning to Wigan, Sam Tomkins has been nowhere near the player he was in his first spell at the club. He will be the first to admit how lacklustre he’s been and you only have to see the effort that he has put into his pre-season so far, to see how much he wants to overcome the demons and get back to his best. It looks like he’s set for a season either in the halves with Williams, or at his preferred fullback position – where he has stern competition from Escare. Missing out on the World Cup last year could be one of the best things to happen to Tomkins, as he’s had the time to properly rest, and to have a full pre-season for the first time in his career. After what has been a poor return, one that’s been plagued with injuries, he really needs a big year in 2018. I do feel like one is coming for him, as he’s been hard at it in pre-season – and if he stays fit, he could be like a new signing to Wigan.
Wigan have let five players leave – two of which are key first team players in McIlorum and Anthony Gelling. In their place, come just two new signings, in young Greg Hamlin and another returning player in Dan Sarginson – who’s just had a 12 month struggle in the NRL. I think it’s safe to say that the Wigan fans haven’t been given too much confidence off the deals that have been done in the off-season. There’s been a bit if uproar with the Warriors bringing back yet another returning player, while losing two of their more key players. The loss of McIlorum is a huge one, and a very strange one at that. Sarginson will come straight into the starting side in place of Gelling, whereas Hamlin will be more of a project player, who I’m sure Wane is eager to get his hands on. I feel like Sarginson needs to impress from the get go, otherwise the fans in the stands will start to stir.
Now, for me, the fixtures and the way they come out never really make a difference to a sides season. I mean, obviously, if you start with Saints, Leeds, Castleford, Warrington away from home, back-to-back, then its a tough start. But the draw never comes out like that, and so for that reason, it doesn’t really matter who you face and when. I know for a fact that Shaun Wane wouldn’t look at the fixtures and think, oh god, we’ve got Hull FC, Leeds and Warrington back-to-back towards the end of the season. The only thing that could put a bit of a dent in the Wigan campaign would be the early season trip to Australia. They open against Salford on the 02/02/18, then travel out to Australia, where they will face Hull FC in the league followed by a game with South Sydney Rabbitohs. That could cause them to have a real slow start to the season, but if they get through that period unscathed, then they should be fine.
Top Tryscorer – Joe Burgess
Top Pointscorer – Joe Burgess
Club Player of the Year – John Bateman
WHERE WILL WIGAN FINISH?
For me, Wigan will need a vast improvement to finish in the play offs come the very end of the season. As a Wigan fan, I will just nudge them in there, but only just.
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