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Wigan RL History - 1997 Season

Click to View: 1996 Season or 1998 Season

1997 saw Wigan battle many off the field problems with debts building up and the board proposing to sell Central Park. They wanted to build a new stadium in Wigan and whilst doing so move the club temporarily out of town to Bolton's Reebok Stadium in Horwich. The proposed move proved very unpopular with fans (scroll down the page for more on this).

1997 also saw the end of season Premiership Trophy being contested for the last time and the World Club Challenge was restructured to include 22 clubs from the Australasian and European Super League competitions. European sides won just 8 of 60 group stage matches, Wigan winning two of them. The whole tournament was a huge flop with it reportedly losing over $5,000,000.

Wigan Final League Position: 4th (Coach: Graeme West till 8th Feb then Eric Hughes)
Stones Bitter Super League Champions:
Bradford Bulls
Silk Cut Challenge Cup Winners: St Helens (32-22 v Bradford)
Stones Bitter Premiership Trophy Winners: Wigan Warriors (6 - 33-22 v St Helens)
1st Division Champions: Hull
2nd Division Champions: Hunslet Hawks

1997 Stones Bitter Super League II Results CC = Challenge Cup PT = Premiership Trophy WCC Euro A = World Club Challenge European Pool A
Date Opposition Venue KO Resultl Tries Goals Report Att TV
Sat 8 Feb CCR4: St Helens Away 3:00 Lost 12-26 A.Johnson, Radlinski Farrell 2 Click Here

12262

BBC ONE

Sun 16 Mar Halifax Blue Sox Home 3:00 Won 20-18 P.Johnson, Ellison, Tallec, A.Johnson Farrell 1, Paul 1 Click Here

11586

-

Sun 23 Mar Castleford Tigers Away 6:35 Won 22-14 Haughton 2, Cassidy, Robinson Farrell 3 Click Here

4339

Fri 28 Mar St Helens Home 3:00 Lost 10-22 Connolly Farrell 3 Click Here

16967

Mon 31 Mar Warrington Wolves Away 3:00 Lost 24-35 Ellison 2, A.Johnson, Murdock, Radlinski Farrell 2 Click Here

7213

-

Fri 4 Apr Leeds Rhinos Away 7:30 Won 17-16 Murdock, Robinson Farrell 4 + DG Click Here

11317

Fri 11 Apr Bradford Bulls Home 7:30 Lost 18-22 Haughton 2, Smith Farrell 3 Click Here

10710

Sun 20 Apr Oldham Bears Home 3:00 Won 44-10 A.Johnson 2, Connolly 2, O'Connor, Smith, Farrell, Murdock Farrell 5, Hall 1 Click Here

7885

-

Fri 25 Apr Salford Reds Away 7:30 Lost 04-14 Cardiss - Click Here

6626

Fri 9 May London Broncos Home 7:30 Won 38-10 Haughton 2, Smith, Farrell, Connolly, Cassidy Farrell 7 Click Here

7350

Sun 18 May Halifax Blue Sox Away 3:00 Won 46-18 Connolly 2, Hall, Smith, Radlinski, Robinson, Wright, Tallec Farrell 7 Click Here

7382

-

Fri 23 May Castleford Tigers Home 7:30 Won 48-08 Connolly 2, Robinson 2, Haughton, Radlinski, Smith, Wright Farrell 7, Paul 1 Click Here

7664

-

Mon 26 May St Helens Away 7:30 Won 65-12 Robinson 3, Smith 2, Haughton 2, Farrell, A.Johnson, Connolly, Radlinski Farrell 10 + DG Click Here

10566

Fri 30 May Paris St Germain Home 7:30 Won 58-20 Smith 2, Cardiss, Farrell, A.Johnson, Koloi, Radlinski, Robinson, Tallec Farrell 1 Click Here

7451

-

Mon 9 June WCC Euro A: Canterbury Away 7:30 Won 22-18 Robinson 2, Haughton, A.Johnson Farrell 3 Click Here

10680

Mon 16 Jun WCC Euro A: Brisbane Away 7:30 Lost 00-34 - - Click Here

14833

Sun 22 June WCC Euro A: Canberra Away 2:30 Lost 22-56 Hall, Radlinski 2, Connolly Farrell 3 Click Here

9098

Sun 29 June Sheffield Eagles Home 3:00 Won 58-02 Smith 5, A.Johnson 2, Robinson 2, Radlinski Farrell 9 Click Here

6811

-

Fri 4 July London Broncos Away 7:30 Lost 12-38 Smith Farrell 4 Click Here

7811

Sat 12 July Paris St Germain Away 8:00 Lost 28-30 Farrell, Haughton, P.Johnson, Talbot Farrell 6 Click Here

2560

-

Sun 20 July WCC Euro A: Brisbane Home 6:35 Lost 04-30 - Farrell 2 Click Here

13476

Mon 28 Jul WCC Euro A: Canterbury Home 7:45 Won 31-24 Radlinski, Cowie, Farrell, Robinson, Connolly Farrell 5 + DG Click Here

10280

Sun 3 Aug WCC Euro A: Canberra Home 3:00 Lost 10-50 Haughton Farrell 3 Click Here

12504

-

Sun 10 Aug Sheffield Eagles Away 3:15 Lost 22-24 Cardiss, Connolly, A.Johnson, Paul Farrell 3 Click Here

3250

-

Wed 13 Aug Warrington Wolves Home 7:30 Won 32-16 Connolly, Ellison, Farrell, A.Johnson, Murdock Farrell 6 Click Here

6076

-

Sun 17 Aug Salford Reds Home 3:00 Lost 14-21 A.Johnson, Robinson, Radlinski Farrell 1 Click Here

6518

-

Fri 22 Aug Oldham Bears Away 7:30 Won 32-26 Ellison 3, A.Johnson, Radlinski, Robinson Farrell 4 Click Here

3354

-

Mon 25 Aug Bradford Bulls Away 3:05 Won 33-18 Robinson 2, Paul, Connolly, Cowie Farrell 6 + DG Click Here

16761

Fri 29 Aug Leeds Rhinos Home 3:00 Won 38-04 Paul 2, Haughton, Farrell, Connolly, Ellison, A.Johnson Farrell 4, Paul 1 Click Here

8438

Mon 15 Sept PT QF: Leeds Home 7:30 Won 38-22 Paul 3, Radlinski, Smith, Clarke Farrell 7 Click Here

6410

Sun 21 Sept PT SF: Sheffield Home 6:35 Won 22-10 Robinson, A.Johnson, Haughton Farrell 5 Click Here

6624

Sun 28 Sept PT Final: St Helens MUFC 3:00 Won 33-20 A.Johnson, Robinson, Radlinski, Farrell, Haughton Farrell 6, Wright DG Click Here

33389

(D)

Fri 3 Oct WCC QF: Hunter Mariners Home 7:30 Lost 18-22 Radlinski, Ellison Farrell 5 Click Here

9553

1997 Match Team Sheet List
aalaDatealaa Opponent Result 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Sub Sub Sub Sub
Sat 8 Feb St H (A) L(CCR4) RadlinskilT Ellison A.JohnsonlT Tuigamala Robinson Paul Edwards O'Connor Hall Cowie Haughton Cassidy FarrelllG2 Murdock Long Holgate Sharratt
Sun 16 Mar Hal (H) W20-18 Murray EllisonlT A.JohnsonlT Radlinski P.JohnsonlT PaullG Murdock O'Connor Hall Cowie Holgate Cassidy FarrelllG TalleclT Haughton Lester Gilmour
Sun 23 Mar Cas (A) W22-14 Murray A.Johnson Connolly Radlinski RobinsonlT Paul Murdock O'Connor Hall Cowie HaughtonlT2 CassidylT FarrelllG3 Tallec Long Holgate Ellison
Fri 28 Mar St H (H) L10-22 Murray A.Johnson ConnollylT Radlinski Robinson Paul Smith O'Connor Cassidy Cowie Haughton Tallec FarrelllG3 Murdock Long Holgate Hall
Mon 31 Mar War (A) L24-35 Murray A.JohnsonlT EllisonlT2 RadlinskilT Robinson Long Smith O'Connor Cassidy Cowie Haughton Tallec FarrelllG2 MurdocklT Hall Holgate P.Johnson
Fri 4 Apr Lee (A) W17-16 Murray A.Johnson Connolly Radlinski RobinsonlT Smith MurdocklT O'Connor Cassidy Holgate Haughton Tallec FarrelllG4lDG Baynes Hall Long Ellison
Fri 11 Apr Bra (H) L18-22 Robinson A.Johnson Connolly Radlinski Cardiss SmithlT Murdock O'Connor Cassidy Holgate HaughtonlT2 Tallec FarrelllG3 Murray Hall Baynes Wright
Sun 20 Apr Old (H) W44-10 Robinson A.JohnsonlT2 ConnollylT2 Radlinski Cardiss SmithlT MurdocklT O'ConnorlT Cassidy Holgate Haughton Tallec FarrelllTlG5 Murray HalllG Cowie Wright
Fri 25 Apr Sal (A) L04-14 Robinson A.Johnson Connolly Radlinski CardisslT Smith Murdock O'Connor Cassidy Holgate Haughton Tallec Farrell Murray Hansen Cowie Wright
Fri 9 May Lon (H) W38-10 Paul A.Johnson ConnollylT Radlinski Robinson Wright SmithlT O'Connor Hall Hansen HaughtonlT2 CassidylT FarrelllTlG7 Murray Tallec Holgate Cardiss
Sun 18 May Hal (A) W46-18 Paul A.Johnson ConnollylT2 RadlinskilT RobinsonlT WrightlT SmithlT O'Connor HalllT Hansen Haughton Cassidy FarrellG7l Ellison TalleclT Cowie Cardiss
Fri 23 May Cas (H) W48-08 Paul A.Johnson ConnollylT2 RadlinskilT RobinsonlT2 WrightlT SmithlT O'Connor Hall Cowie HaughtonlT Cassidy FarrelllG7 Hansen Tallec Holgate Cardiss
Mon 26 May St H (A) W65-12 Paul A.JohnsonlT ConnollylT RadlinskilT RobinsonlT3 Wright SmithlT2 Hansen Hall Cowie HaughtonlT2 Cassidy FarrelllTlG10lDG Holgate Tallec Lester Cardiss
Fri 30 May Paris (H) W58-20 CardisslT A.JohnsonlT Connolly RadlinskilT RobinsonlT Paul SmithlT2 Hansen Hall Cowie Haughton Cassidy FarrelllTlG11 Holgate TalleclT Lester KoloilT
Mon 9 June Cant (A) W(WCC) Paul A.JohnsonlT Connolly Radlinski RobinsonlT2 Wright Smith Hansen Hall Cowie HaughtonlT Cassidy FarrelllG3 Holgate Tallec Cardiss Koloi
Mon 16 Jun Bris (A) L(WCC) Paul A.Johnson Connolly Radlinski Robinson Wright Smith O'Connor Hall Cowie Haughton Cassidy Farrell Holgate Tallec Cardiss Koioi
Sun 22 Jun Canb (A) L(WCC) Koloi A.Johnson ConnollylT RadlinskilT2 Robinson Paul Smith O'Connor HalllT Hansen Haughton Cassidy FarrelllG3 Holgate* Tallec Cardiss Lester
Sun 29 Jun Shef (H) W58-02 Cardiss A.JohnsonlT2 Connolly RadlinskilT RobinsonlT2 Paul SmithlT5 O'Connor Talbot Hansen Haughton Cassidy FarrelllG9 Holgate Tallec Koloi Lester
Fri 4 July Lon (A) L12-38 Cardiss A.Johnson Connolly Radlinski Robinson Paul SmithlT O'Connor Talbot Hansen Haughton Cassidy FarrelllG4 Holgate Tallec P.Johnson Gilmour
Sat 12 July Paris (A) L28-30 Paul A.Johnson Connolly Radlinski P.JohnsonlT Wright Smith O'Connor TalbotlT Hansen HaughtonlT Cassidy FarrelllTlG6 Holgate Tallec Murdock ?
Mon 21 Jul Bris (H) L(WCC) Paul A.Johnson Connolly Radlinski Robinson Wright Murdock O'Connor Cassidy Cowie Haughton Lester FarrelllG2 Holgate Hansen Cardiss Tallec
Mon 28 Jul Cant (H) W(WCC) Paul A.Johnson ConnollylT RadlinskilT Cardiss RobinsonlT Murdock O'Connor Cassidy CowielT Haughton Lester FarrelllTlG5lDG Holgate Hansen Tallec P.Johnson
Sun 3 Aug Canb (H) L(WCC) Cardiss A.Johnson Connolly Radlinski Robinson Smith Murdock O'Connor Cassidy Cowie HaughtonlT Lester FarrelllG3 Holgate Hansen Tallec P.Johnson
Sun 10 Aug Shef (A) L22-24 CardisslT A.JohnsonlT ConnollylT Radlinski Robinson PaullT Smith O'Connor Cassidy Cowie Haughton Lester FarrelllG3 Holgate Hansen Clarke P.Johnson
Wed 13 Aug War (H) W32-16 Robinson A.JohnsonlT ConnollylT Radlinski EllisonlT Paul MurdocklT O'Connor Hall Cowie Tallec Cassidy FarrelllTlG6 Holgate Hansen Clarke P.Johnson
Sun 17 Aug Sal (H) L14-21 RobinsonlT A.JohnsonlT Connolly RadlinskilT Cardiss Paul Murdock O'Connor Clarke Cowie Haughton Cassidy FarrelllG Holgate Hansen Tallec P.Johnson
Fri 22 Aug Old (A) W32-26 RobinsonlT A.JohnsonlT Connolly RadlinskilT EllisonlT3 Paul Murdock Hansen Hall Cowie Haughton Cassidy FarrelllG4 Holgate (Cardiss) Tallec P.Johnson
Mon 25 Aug Bra (A) W33-18 RobinsonlT2 A.Johnson ConnollylT Radlinski Ellison PaullT Murdock Hansen Hall CowielT Haughton Cassidy FarrelllG6lDG Holgate Clarke Tallec P.Johnson
Fri 29 Aug Lee (H) W38-04 Robinson A.JohnsonlT ConnollylT Radlinski EllisonlT PaullT2lG Smith Hansen Clarke Cowie HaughtonlT Cassidy FarrelllTlG4 Holgate Murdock O'Connor P.Johnson
Mon 15 Sep Lee (H) W(PTR1) Robinson P.Johnson Connolly RadlinskilT Ellison PaullT3 SmithlT Hansen ClarkelT Cowie A.Johnson Cassidy FarrelllG7 Holgate (Wright) O'Connor Tallec
Sun 21 Sep Shef (H) W(PTSF) RobinsonlT A.JohnsonlT Connolly Radlinski Ellison Paul Smith Hansen Clarke Cowie HaughtonlT Cassidy FarrelllG5 Holgate Wright O'Connor Tallec
Sun 28 Sep St H (N) W (PTF) RobinsonlT A.JohnsonlT Connolly RadlinskilT Ellison Paul Smith Hansen Clarke Cowie HaughtonlT Cassidy FarrelllTlG6 Holgate WrightlDG O'Connor Tallec
Fri 3 Oct Hun (A) L(WCCQF) Robinson Cardiss Connolly RadlinskilT EllisonlT Paul Murdock Hansen Clarke Cowie Haughton Cassidy FarrelllG5 Holgate Wright O'Connor Tallec

Squad

Appearances

Scoring

NoPlayerStartsSubsTotalTriesGoalsDG Points
1 Kris Radlinski 33 - 33 15 - - 60
2 Jason Robinson 31 - 31 20 - - 80
3 Va'aiga Tuigamala 1 - 1 - - - 0
4 Gary Connolly 28 - 28 15 - - 60
5 Rob Smyth - - - - - - -
6 Henry Paul 27 - 27 7 4 - 36
7 Shaun Edwards 1 - 1 - - - -
8 Neil Cowie 23 4 27 2 - - 8
9 Mick Cassidy 33 - 33 2 - - 8
10 Terry O'Connor 22 6 28 1 - - 4
11 Simon Haughton 30 1 31 15 - - 60
13 Andy Farrell 33 - 33 9 146 4 332
14 Craig Murdock 14 4 18 4 - - 16
15 Andy Johnson 31 - 31 16 - - 64
16 Danny Ellison 12 - 12 10 - - 40
17 Stephen Holgate 5 26 31 - - - 0
18 Stuart Lester 4 4 8 - - - 0
20 Nigel Wright 8 6 14 2 - 1 9
21 Darryl Cardiss 11 5 16 3 - - 12
22 Paul Johnson 3 7 10 2 - - 8
23 Ian Sherratt - - - - - - -
24 Sean Long 1 3 4 - - - 0
25 Gael Tallec 8 20 28 3 - - 12
26 Doc Murray 6 2 8 - - - 0
27 Martin Hall 13 5 18 2 1 - 10
28 Paul Koloi 2 3 5 1 - - 4
29 Lee Hansen 17 8 25 - - - 0
30 Tony Smith 23 - 23 16 - - 64
31 Ian Talbot 3 - 3 1 - - 4
32 Neil Baynes - 2 2 - - - 0
33 Lee Gilmour - 1 1 - - - 0
34 Jon Clarke 6 3 9 1 - - 4
-Totals: - - - 147 151 5 835

Top Try Scorers
No Player Tries
1 Jason Robinson 20
2 Andy Johnson 16
3 Tony Smith 16
4 Gary Connolly 15
5 Simon Haughton 15
6 Kris Radlinski 15
7 Danny Ellison 10
8 Andy Farrell 9
9 Henry Paul 7
10 Craig Murdock 4
11 Darryl Cardiss 3
12 Gael Tallec 3
13 Mick Cassidy 2
14 Neil Cowie 2
15 Martin Hall 2
16 Paul Johnson 2
17 Nigel Wright 2
18 Jon Clarke 1
19 Paul Koloi 1
20 Terry O'Connor 1
21 Ian Talbot 1

Top Goal Kickers
No Player Goals
1 Andy Farrell 146
2 Henry Paul 4
3 Martin Hall 1
4 Gary Connolly 2
5 Shaun Edwards 2
6 Va'aiga Tuigamala 1

Top Drop Goal Kickers
No Player Drops
1 Andy Farrell 4
2 Nigel Wright 1

Top Points Scorers
No Player Points
1 Andy Farrell 332
2 Jason Robinson 80
3 Andy Johnson 64
4 Tony Smith 64
5 Gary Connolly 60
6 Simon Haughton 60
7 Kris Radlinski 60
8 Danny Ellison 40
9 Henry Paul 36
10 Craig Murdock 16
11 Darryl Cardiss 12
12 Gael Tallec 12
13 Martin Hall 10
14 Nigel Wright 9
15 Mick Cassidy 8
16 Neil Cowie 8
17 Paul Johnson 8
18 Jon Clarke 4
19 Paul Koloi 4
20 Terry O'Connor 4
21 Ian Talbot 4

At the end of the year, after relegation, Oldham Bears folded. Then the RFL decided not to readmit Paris St Germain. Carlisle Border Raiders and Barrow Braves merged. Blackpool Gladiators (non-league) and Prescott Panthers folded.

1997 Stones Bitter Super League II Final Table

- Team P W D L F A Diff Pts
1 Bradford Bulls 22 20 0 2 769 397 +372 40
2 London Broncos 22 15 3 4 616 418 +198 33
3 St Helens 22 14 1 7 592 506 +86 29
4 Wigan Warriors 22 14 0 8 683 398 +285 28
5 Leeds Rhinos 22 13 1 8 544 463 +81 27
6 Salford Reds 22 11 0 11 428 495 -67 22
7 Halifax Blue Sox 22 8 2 12 524 549 -25 22
8 Sheffield Eagles 22 9 0 13 415 574 -159 18
9 Warrington Wolves 22 8 0 14 437 647 -210 16
10 Castleford Tigers 22 5 2 15 334 515 -181 12
11 Paris St Germain 22 6 0 16 362 572 -210 12
12 Oldham Bears 22 4 1 17 461 631 -170 9
 
 
Oldham Bears folded and Paris St Germain were ejected. 
Hull and Huddersfield Giants were promoted to take their place.
 
 
 
First Division Championship
Team P W D L F A Pts
Hull 20 18 1 1 617 228 37
Huddersfield Giants 20 16 0 4 630 320 32
Keighley Cougars 20 11 1 8 428 332 23
Whitehaven Warriors 20 11 1 8 436 398 23
Wakefield Trinity 20 9 1 10 393 419 19
Dewsbury Rams 20 9 0 11 341 455 18
Featherstone Rovers 20 8 1 11 408 395 17
Hull Kingston Rovers 20 8 1 11 440 481 17
Swinton Lions 20 7 0 13 355 488 14
Widnes Vikings 20 6 0 14 282 579 12
Workington Town 20 4 0 16 320 555 8

Hull and Huddersfield Giants were promoted to the Super League.
Widnes Vikings and Workington Town were demoted to the second division.
Hunslet Hawks, Rochdale Hornets, and Leigh Centurions were promoted to take their places.

 
Second Division Championship
Team P W D L F A Pts
Hunslet Hawks 20 15 0 5 682 256 30
Rochdale Hornets 20 15 0 5 680 347 30
Leigh Centurions 20 15 0 5 546 346 30
Batley Bulldogs 20 14 0 6 600 435 28
Carlisle Border Raiders 20 13 0 7 564 384 26
Lancashire Lynx 20 12 0 8 552 393 24
York Wasps 20 8 0 12 502 517 16
Barrow Braves 20 7 0 13 335 632 14
Bramley 20 5 1 14 353 513 11
Doncaster Dragons 20 3 1 16 247 668 7
Prescot Panthers 20 2 0 18 247 817 4
 

1997 Visa World Club Challenge
European Pool A Final Table
- Team P W D L F A Diff Pts
1 Wigan Warriors 6 2 0 4 89 212 -123 4
2 London Broncos 6 1 0 5 136 238 -102 2
3 Bradford Bulls 6 0 0 6 82 228 -146 0
4 St Helens 6 0 0 6 96 270 -174 0
5 Warrington Wolves 6 0 0 6 78 256 -178 0
6 Halifax Blue Sox 6 0 0 6 46 286 -240 0

Top Three qualified for Quarter Finals

1997 Pre Season Friendly Results
Date Opposition Venue Result
Thu 26 Dec St Helens Home Won 32-22
Sun 12 Jan St Helens Away Lost 12-44
Sun 2 Feb Lancashire Lynx Away Won 52-4
Sun 2 Mar Castleford Tigers Home Won 54-14
Fri 7 Mar Castleford Tigers Away Lost 8-18

Wigan's former invincibility was dented in 1996 having lost both the title and Challenge Cup. They entered the 1997 Super League II season hoping to reclaim it, but in truth the invincibility was ground to dust as off the field problems were to beset the club. This is a long story.

Wigan's finances had plummeted and with debts of £3 million it was decided Central Park was to be sold. Local Businessman Dave Whelan, owner of Wigan Athletic Football Club, wanted to buy Central Park and have Latics share the ground with the Warriors. He offered £4.5m for the ground and pledged to spend a further £12.5m to turn it into a 20,000 all seater stadium for both clubs. Shareholders had voted for the idea but the Wigan board had another offer to consider from the Tesco Supermarket chain, which was rumoured to be closer to £10 million. If the Tesco offer was accepted, Wigan would be homeless. The idea was that Wigan would share with Bolton Wanderers new Reebok Stadium, which at the time was being built. The suggestion angered Wigan fans as the Reebok was located four miles away from Wigan town centre.

Whilst this was going on Wigan entered the new season with Graeme West still coach. The Challenge Cup draw was unkind as they were drawn away to St Helens. Hope was high that they could avenge the loss of the league championship to them in 1996, but they crashed out of the competition with a 26-12 defeat. The fall out from the defeat was massive, Graeme West was sacked and a couple of days later Va'aiga Tuigamala was sold for £1 million. Wigan simply could not refuse the offer due to the massive debts they had. Wigan replaced West with Eric Hughes who was promoted from his job as Academy coach. Hughes was not a popular choice as he had previously been coach at St Helens. In fact he was sacked at Saints following the 1995 Regal Trophy Final defeat to Wigan. Jack Robinson however claimed the Saints current successes was down to the foundations Hughes had laid there.

In mid February Rugby League sources continued to tout Wigan Warriors as future lodgers of the new Reebok Stadium as Dave Whelan's offer to buy Central Park had been vetoed by the board. The board was made up of four people. Jack Robinson, Arthur Thomas, Tom Rathbone and John Martin. They had a vote over Whelan's offer and Martin, who ran the Riverside Club at Central Park, was the only member of the board who voted for it. The other three voted against as they were holding out for an increased offer from Tesco and thus seeing us move out of the town to Bolton.. Following the vote Martin resigned has he had become frustrated by the board's apparent lack of urgency to agree the Whelan plan despite shareholders voting in favour of the move.

In late February news emerged that Wigan were holding talks with Bolton about a ground share. Dave Whelan responded to the news by offering to virtually wipe out the club's debts within 48 hours. In early March Tesco increased their offer to buy Central Park to £12.5 million news broke that the ground sale was to "go-ahead". Fans held a protest outside Central Park ahead of a pre season friendly against Castleford whilst other fans chose to boycott the game. Some fans even travelled down to Tesco Headquarters and protested there! The Wigan fans simply did not want the club to move to Bolton, even if it was for a temporary period. They could not believe the board could sell the ground without a permanent new home being in place.

As the month wore on over 200 disgruntled shareholders met to discuss the controversial decision to sell Central Park to Tesco. They also backed a petition calling for the removal of chairman Jack Robinson and Mick Rathbone from the board immediately.

Meanwhile the league season got underway on March 16th. Wigan began with two victories over Halifax and Castleford before a shock announcement was made on March 27th. One of our favourite sons, the legend Shaun Edwards was to leave the club. He asked to leave so he could be near his London-based girlfriend and new-born son. Wigan agreed to let him go to London Broncos and immediately signed Tony Smith for £150,000 from Castleford as his replacement.

The off field wranglings began to affect the team on the field as they lost both Easter Fixtures with St Helens and Warrington. They then beat Leeds by a point but that was followed by further defeats to Bradford and Salford.

Into May and shareholders had decided they wanted to oust Jack Robinson as chairman. A shareholders action group claimed the board sold Central Park to Tesco without consultation after previously agreeing to accept a rescue package from millionaire Dave Whelan. Former player Phil Clarke was offered to the shareholders as the man to lead the ousting bid. The group's next move will be a circular to the club's 1500 shareholders seeking support for their attempt to remove Mr Robinson and his vice-chairman Tom Rathbone at an Emergency General Meeting on May 20. On the field Wigan restored a bit of pride with a good 38-10 win over London.

A week before the shareholders EGM, Wigan unveil details of a proposed new super stadium. But critics of the board fear that if the team moves out of town to Bolton Wanderers' new stadium at Horwich they will never return to Wigan. Robinson had met the shareholders' action group that week but their spokeman Ernie Benbow said at the time that "he was unable to give any categorical assurances about a site in Wigan."

At the same time Dave Whelan unveiled plans to build a new 25,000 seater stadium for Wigan Athletic at Robin Park but he refused to open ground share negotiations with the Wigan board after the collapse of his Central Park rescue package earlier this year.

On 20th May Wigan shareholders held the EGM and Jack Robinson survived, for now. Robinson won a vote of confidence 484 to 400 while fellow board member, Rathbone held on by 489 to 407. So Robinson was still chairman but Wigan were still homeless. The wrangling was far from over.

Back on the field Wigan met St Helens at Knowsley Road. This was Eric Hughes' return there following his sacking in 1995. He took sweet revenge as Wigan somehow produced a thumping 65-12 win. That was a sweet, sweet win in their own backyard! They followed this up with a victory over Paris at home.

June saw Wigan travel to Australia for 3 matches as part of an expanded World Club Challenge which saw all ten Australian Super League clubs competing against all twelve European clubs. The whole tournament turned out to be a bit of a joke as the Aussie sides outclassed the Brits, winning 75 of the 83 matches. Wigan beat Canterbury Bulldogs 22-18 in there first match but then were nilled by Brisbane and suffered a then record 56-22 defeat to Canberra. A month later Wigan would met the same three sides again at Central Park.

The month long trip down under had quietened the Jack Robinson saga but as they returned he faced a new vote of confidence from the shareholders. A newspaper reported that an associate gathered proxy votes for the original EGM in May by fraudulent methods. The paper claimed someone was instructed to fill in forms for shareholders who were believed to have died so they could be used as votes in favour of the two Wigan directors. Robinson reacted by saying "(The claims) are totally untruthful. This is just part of a smear campaign which has been going on by a certain group of people who want me out of the club."

The wrangling was really beginning to affect the side on the field as they suffered an heavy defeat away at London and then an embarrassing defeat away to Paris.

Then the Australians visited for the return leg of the World Club Challenge. Wigan lost to Brisbane 30-4 before managed to beat a Canterbury side which had been reduced to 11 men 31-24. Canberra then repeated the hammering they had given us over there with a 50-10 victory. Despite losing four of their six matches, Wigan still qualified for the Quarter Finals which would be played at the end of the league season.

The off field saga continued and so did Wigan's poor league form. More defeats to Sheffield and Salford left Wigan with no chance of winning the league title. Coach Eric Hughes vowed to "get on with it" despite the problems.

On Tuesday August 19th Jack Robinson and Tom Rathbone resigned from the Wigan board. Coach Eric Hughes revealed that they had their homes damaged and their lives threatened. Following the resignations the Rugby Football League's financial were called in by the club to investigate its cash flow position. Arthur Thomas was the only remaining board member left so it was he who became temporary chairman. With Robinson gone John Martin, who earlier had resigned from the board, offered to ease the club's financial problems with a 750,000 interest free loan. But the offer was conditional on the Warriors staying in Wigan and rejecting a temporary move to Bolton. He made the offer to bide the club time to negotiate a deal to move to proposed Robin Park stadium with Wigan Athletic on a permanent basis."

Wigan's next match was an away to bottom of the table Oldham and Wigan just managed to scrape a 32-26 win, which put them fourth in the table. That was followed with a much better performance in the final match of the season as they hammered Leeds 38-4. Wigan finished the season in 4th position and ended the difficult domestic season by winning the last ever end of season Premiership trophy with a 33-20 victory over St Helens at Old Trafford. The kept up Wigan record of winning a trophy in every season since 1984-85.

The season didn't finish, as it normally would have done, with the Premiership final as the World Club Challenge tournament was still to be decided. Wigan, aiming to win it for a fourth time, met Hunter Mariners in the Quarter Finals at Central Park. Wigan took a 14-4 lead in the match but let it slip in controversial fashion. The match hinged on a suspiciously-looking forward pass that put the Mariners over for the try which gave them crucial 18-14 lead with 15 minutes to go. "One wrong decision cost us the game," claimed coach Eric Hughes. "To me, it was a long, long way forward, and it was crucial. It was the major turning point. Hunter hung on and Wigan's season was over.

The complete the story of the off field situation. It was announced on October 29th that Wigan would not be moving to the Reebok Stadium. Mike Nolan, who owned finance and car leasing businesses in Wigan, took over as chairman of the club from Arthur Thomas. He was joined on the board by John Martin who returned after his row with the old regime. Tesco agreed to let the Warriors stay on at Central Park until the end of 1999, when they would then join up with Wigan Athletic at there new stadium which was about to be built Robin Park. In November the new board sacked Eric Hughes and began making sweeping behind the scenes chances ahead of a new dawn in 1998.

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