|When Wigan traveled to
Widnes last season it was a certain Julian O'Neill that scored two
tries in helping us to a
This year of course he
will be playing for the Vikings after he
departed the JJB Stadium just over
a month a go.
His arrival at the Halton
Stadium immediately changed Widnes' fortunes. Before he joined the
club they had lost all four of their opening Super League fixtures.
But since then they won three on the bounce before a crushing defeat
against Warrington last weekend.
The main reason for the
change in fortunes is O'Neill's goal kicking ability. Last year's
goal kicker Barry Eaton left the club to join Batley during the off
season and until O'Neill arrived they struggled with a makeshift
kicker in Adam Hughes.
Julian has scored 16 goals
in just 4 matches for the Vikings and that has helped transform them
from a side that looked like battling relegation to a side that
potentially could make the play offs.
If you didn't already know
Widnes now have two Julian O'Neill's in their squad. As well as the
ex Wigan player they have a prop forward Julian O'Neill.
It has been very amusing
to see how the media have coped with a side having two players with
the same name.
BBC GMR commentator Phil
Kinsella decided to call one of them "O'Neill the back" and the
other "O'Neill the forward".
Sky TV took another
approach by calling one of them "Julian O'Neill" and the other
Others have named them by
their nationalities. "Ozzie O'Neill" and "Kiwi O'Neill.
Talk about confusing.
The Widnes connections
with Wigan don't end with O'Neill. Paul Atcheson and Phil Cantillon
both began their careers with us whilst Andrew Isherwood was an
academy youngster here until a couple of years a go.
Neither of that trio are
likely to start though on Saturday. Atcheson is expected to be on
the bench now Stuart Spruce is fit again at full back. Cantillon is
out of favour at hooker with coach Neil Kelly preferring ex London
Bronco Shane Millard. Isherwood suffered a ruptured disc during a
pre season trip to South Africa and is out for the season.
Wigan come into this game
with yet another injury. Sean O'Loughlin joins the casualty list
with a sternum injury.
Question is who will play
Stand Off in the absence of O'Loughlin?
Most likely we'll see Nick
Graham switch to Stand Off and Gareth Hock play Loose Forward. Or
maybe Paul Johnson will play there? Dave Allen played at 6 for the
academy in midweek so he is also an option if coach Stuart Raper
needs to change things around during the match.
Thankfully Terry O'Connor
is fit despite being brought off during Tuesday Night's match at
Leeds. With Craig Smith and Ricky Bibey still out we needed
available and it's good to see he is in the squad. I'm sure Danny
Sculthorpe could do with the help after his amazing 70 minute
performance at Headingley.
Academy youngster Harrison
Hansen is also included in the squad for the first time. I've been
impressed with him when I've seen him play for the academy this
season. He's scored a total of 8 tries for both the Under 21s and
Under 18s this season. Not bad for a forward.
I don't think he will be
but if Harrison is included it will be interesting to see where
exactly he plays. Normally a Second Rower of Loose Forward for
Academy matches but maybe he'll be used as an extra prop? Mark
Roberts is also in the squad so maybe not but it's an option
available to coach Raper.
For me this is the first
of three matches that will make of break our season. With Warrington
and Halifax to follow at home we've got to be looking at maximum
points surely? I mean after that we face Leeds, Saints, Hull and
Bradford, again in a row. We have got to be in a comfortable play
off position before then or else we are going to be involved in one
hell of a slog to make the top 6 this year.
Bottom line is this is a
game we should win. Our young side has proved in their last four
matches that they can compete with the top sides, despite only
winning one of those games. But they need to show the same passion,
intensity and commitment against what on paper are easier
opposition. Of course we all know their is never an easy game in
Opposition Ones to
David Mills is the son of former Welsh
international Jim Mills.
Last year he made a big impact in Super League so much so
that he picked up both county honours for Lancashire and
international honours for Wales, making his debut against New
Zealand last November.
SQUAD NUMBER: 23