Wednesday, 14 January 2015

A New Era in 2015 for Wigan?

A new year and season means a new title for the blog and in keeping with the topic of 2015 - I have chosen to re-name as 'A New Era in 2015'. The first post of this year is an article about how Wigan will adapt this season and various changes in the post-season both good and bad.

The countdown to the new Super League season is on and for many teams there is the impetus to improve on last season which is a focus for Wigan after an memorable end to 2014 for all the wrong reasons.

Some 'experts' have rated the Warriors best hopes for 2015 are to finish in fourth while others see a return to Old Trafford in October and a potential rematch of the 2014 Grand Final against St Helens but as a Warrior myself, the focus is on how the new structure will affect the team and performance in 2015.

Usually, the post-season at Wigan features an array of exits normally with players returning home to the NRL but this year has seen a break from that tradition with only two exits in the form of mercurial half-back Blake Green who leaves the number six shirt with a huge reputation while Eddy Pettybourne departed recently due to personal reasons.

Both performed superbly last season and will be missed in the side by both players and fans alike but the winds of change have seen some real prospects come into the squad with the notable duo of Taulima Tautai (Wakefield) and Larne Patrick who arrives on loan from Huddersfield in a swap for Jack Hughes with both massive deals for the club after being highly rated last season.

Aside from Jack Hughes moving north to the Giants for 2015, loans have dominated the exits from the DW with the only permanent deal seeing Darrell Goulding sign for Hull KR where he will be joined for a year by Greg Burke while Scott Taylor moves to Salford and Sam Hopkins continues his learning curve at Leigh.

Wigan's biggest positive in terms signings has to be the extension of inspirational captain Sean O'Loughlin's stay on the playing field which will be a huge boost for 2015 after a mixed 2014 raised doubts of retirement. Sean's commitment to the club is second to none and the '13' shirt would not be the same had he chose to move into coaching  rather than to continue the stellar skill of try assists with the derby pass to Dan Sarginson, a stand-out moment of last season.

Returning to the earlier topic of going home, Lee Mossop returns to grace the Cherry and White after a short stay in the NRL with Parramatta which was curtailed by injuries but his return could signal to him being be a real star for Wigan this year going forward.

In the forwards, Wigan are flush this season despite the recent departure of Gil Dudson to Widnes and the suspension of Ben Flower until April after his Old Trafford indiscretion as the aforementioned trio of signings join a youthful group that includes Dom Crosby, Ryan Sutton, Tony Clubb and John Bateman among others.

Youth is a topic that last season led to many negative predictions for Wigan which were stunningly rubbished as the Warriors prevailed several times in tough games thanks to some superb performances from previously unknown gems such as Joe Burgess and George Williams who have both been rewarded for a great 2014 with the number five and six shirts respectively.

As 2015 is heralded as the beginning of a new era of Rugby League, at Wigan the mix of budding youth and experience should make for a great assault on re-claiming the Challenge Cup and Super League titles of 2013.

The season begins with a trip to Widnes and Wigan will be eager to right the wrongs of the last meeting which ended a woeful season on the road of which a huge turnaround will be a primary focus for 2015 but which 13 players launch the season for the Warriors?

As the pre-season programme begins this weekend, little is known of the new structure that Shaun Wane has devised for 2015 but in my view the best starting side at the moment has to be spearheaded by a familiar back five.

The halves is a topic of discussion among many fans with the 2015 six and seven the current favourites to make the starting lineup with Ryan Hampshire and Sam Powell vying for places on the bench.

A squad boasting an array of forwards will give Shaun Wane a headache for the opening game with the new signings sure to be in contention alongside the upcoming Academy stars with Dom Crosby awarded the number eight after Scott Taylor's exit with Taulima Tautai my tip to deputise in Ben Flower's absence.
                                                         Crosby                     Tautai
                                                        J.Tomkins                   Farrell

Of course, my selection is based on last season's setup and may change as the pre-season programme continues but the headache hopefully makes for a good 2015 for the Cherry and Whites but what do you think?