1998 saw the end of season play offs re-introduced for the first time since 1972. This meant that finishing top of the league would not make you champions. You had to win the "Grand Final" to be declared champions after a play off series involving the top 5 clubs. Wigan won the first Grand Final in 1998 by defeating Leeds 10-4 at Old Trafford.
Wigan Final League
Position: 1st (Coach: John Monie) JJB Sports Super League Champions: Wigan
Warriors (18th championship, 1st Super League title - 10-4 v Leeds) Silk Cut
Challenge Cup Winners: Sheffield Eagles (17-8 v Wigan) 1st Division Champions:
Wakefield Trinity (24-22 v Featherstone) 2nd Division Champions: Lancashire Lynx
There was no promotion and relegation between Divisions One and Two as they
were merged into a single division in 1999.
Barrow Border Braves
1998 Friendly Results
Fri 26 Dec
Sun 25 Jan
Fri 30 Jan
After a difficult 1997 season, which had been tarnished by off the field
problems, Wigan came back with a bang in 1998. With a new board and a new coach,
in the form of John Monie, who of course had been Wigan coach between 1989 and
1993 and won every honour available to him during that time. The new regime at
Wigan revealed the club was more than £4million in debt when they had taken
over. Vice-chairman John Martin and chairman Mike Nolan's rescue package had
saved Wigan from potential bankruptcy. The clubs future was still in the
Monie walked back into his old job in December 1997. He came in and said "the
place is in a mess, there's a lot of work to be done and we have got to
restructure. He brought in Andy Goodway, the Great Britain coach, as his
assistant and together they began to axe several shocking signings like Paul
Koloi, Doc Murray, Gael Tallec and Ian Sherratt. He replaced them with three
Aussie recruits, centre Danny Moore, winger Mark Bell and Hooker Robbie
McCormack. It was also announced that Wigan had signed Wendell Sailor from
Brisbane Broncos on a two year contract. Phil Clarke, who had been made chief
executive at the club, went over to Australia to finalise the deal. The deal
never came off as Brisbane had a clause in his contract which stated they had
first option to re-sign him and eventually he agreed to stay in Brisbane.
The Challenge Cup campaign of 1998 got under way a full two months before
Super League III was due to start. Wigan had a kind draw away at First Division
Keighley Cougars, hammering them 76-0. In Round 5 they were drawn away Dewsbury
and once again they nilled the lower league opposition with a 56-0 win. The
Quarter Finals saw them draw rivals St Helens in what would be a big test at
Central Park. Saints had knocked Wigan out in the opening round the previous
season so revenge was in mind. Wigan came out 22-10 victors and would meet
London in the Semi Finals.
Whilst Wigan were progressing with the club their were still off field issues
going on. Local millionaire businessman Dave Whelan launched a takeover bid for
the club. The owner of JJB Sports and Wigan Athletic was prepared to spend
around £2million on the deal but first he needed the agreement of shareholders.
Whelan threatened to walk away from the Wigan Warriors if shareholders did not
give him overall control, but in the end the vote at an extraordinary general
meeting was almost unanimously in his favour. Whelan now had a 93% stake in
Wigan Warriors and it allowed him to press ahead with his new £30 million
stadium at Robin Park. Wigan still had debts which had now reached £4.5 million
but that would soon be paid off as the planning permission came through for
Tesco's Supermarket who were buying Central Park. At the annual meeting Mike
Nolan was re-elected as chairman with accountant Mike Colling also drafted onto
the board as financial director.
A week before the Super League season began, Wigan reached the Challenge Cup
Final for the first time in three years with a comfortable 38-8 victory over
London Broncos in the Semi Final at Huddersfield's McAlpine Stadium.
1998 saw Super League launch a "Grand Final" to decide its champion.
Basically it was a more glorified re-emergence of the old championship play off
system which Rugby League had used in most years from its inception in 1895 till
being scrapped in 1973. You had to finish in the top 5 of the league to make the
play offs and a higher league finish gained you more advantages like home field
for example plus second chances in some instances.
The league campaign began with a 18-4 home victory over Castleford just days
before they saw off St Helens 38-8 in the traditional Good Friday at Knowsley
Road. Further victories over Halifax and London sent Wigan into the Cup Final
with a 100% record.
Wigan met Sheffield Eagles in the 1998 Challenge Cup Final at Wembley and no
one gave the opponents a prayer. We were massive favourites but it turned out to
be the biggest cup final shock of all time as the Eagles, who had massive odds
of 33-1 to win the cup, came out 17-8 winners. In the match they simply blew
Wigan away first half by leading 11-2 at half time. We all expected Wigan to
come out and turn them over second half but they actually increased their lead
to 17-2 before Mark Bell scored a converted try. Wigan sensed a come back but
they kept making mistakes when they should have scored but in the end they had
simply been the poorer side and deserved to lose. The ironic thing about it was
that the next league match for Wigan after the final was away at Sheffield. They
bounced back to hammer them 36-6, leaving us Wigan fans to think what might have
In mid May Wigan suffered their first defeat of the season. They met Leeds at
Headingley and both sides came into the match with perfect 100% records but it
was Leeds who kept their record up with a 16-8 win.
Two losses in three matches left the pundits wondering if Wigan's early
season form had been a fluke. But they proved that it wasn't by beating
Huddersfield 38-0 at Central Park. Further victories over Hull and Salford
allowed Wigan to reclaim top spot in the table with a 28-12 away win at
Bradford, as title rivals Leeds lost away at Hull.
Wigan and Leeds continued to be neck and neck in the table until Round 13.
Leeds lost to Bradford two days before Wigan were due to meet St Helens at
Central Park and Wigan took advantage of the slip with a comfortable 38-14
victory over the old enemy.
Round 14 of the competition saw Super League go on the road in an attempt to
spread the game to other parts of the country. The round was spread over a three
week period with games being played in Edinburgh, Gateshead, Northampton,
Cardiff and Swansea. Wigan's "on the road" fixture was at Vetch Field in
Swansea. It was St Helens again who they met and like they had done two weeks
earlier they comfortably won, 36-2.
Then in Round 15 Leeds suffered a further slip up, losing at Castleford.
Wigan were going from strength to strength and kept on winning. In Round 18
Leeds visited Central Park. With a four point advantage over Leeds Wigan knew a
victory would pretty much seal top spot in the table and home field advantage
going into the play offs. But Leeds had other ideas and won a tough match 15-8.
A big factor in the defeat was a red card being shown to Mick Cassidy for an
elbow that saw him given a six match suspension. Despite the loss Wigan still
had a two point advantage over Leeds and in winning out their final two matches
against Bradford and Warrington they went into the play offs as the league
Wigan's advantage in finishing top of the table was that they got a week off
whilst the other four play off sides began their campaigns. Wigan knew they
would meet the winners of a play off match between 2nd placed Leeds and 3rd
placed Halifax in a Grand Final Qualifying match at Central Park. The winner of
the qualifier would go straight into the Grand Final and gain another week off
while the lost would get a second chance a week later.
Leeds beat Halifax to set up a qualifying semi final at Central Park. Wigan
may have finished top of the league but their only losses had both come to Leeds
so they had a point to prove. It was another tough match at a cold, wet and
windy Central Park but this time Wigan would come through with a 17-4 win. So
Wigan had reached the Grand Final whilst Leeds got a second chance against St
Helens. Leeds set up a final with Wigan as they won thier second chance 44-16 at
The inaugural Super League Grand Final was played at Old Trafford, Manchester
on Saturday 24th October 1998. Pouring rain, the "1812 Overture" and a crescendo
of noise from a record-breaking crowd (43,553) for a rugby league match at Old
Trafford, set the scene for the first Super League Grand Final. It was a fitting
scenario for the finale of the Super League season and what a tremendous game
was in prospect. The three previous meetings betwene the sides had been tight
affairs and this was no exception. Early on both sides used safety first in the
pouring rain, simply seeing out their sets of six. Leeds came nearest to opening
the scoring as Iestyn Harris had a penalty shot but it went wide. Leeds had
started the brighter and got a deserved try in the 21st minute when Richie
Blackmore scored. Harris couldn't convert so it was only 4-0.
Wigan then started to create some opportunities of their own. The old adage
of Wigan always being dangerous just before the half-time break proved to be the
case again.. Just 3 mins before the interval, Wigan pounced. Jason Robinson took
the ball from dummy-half, near the touchline and 20m out, ran across the face of
the Rhinos' defence before straightening up, beating off the attempted tackles
of Darren Fleary and Jamie Mathiou, and scooting in under the posts. Andy
Farrell made no mistake with an easy conversion and Wigan held a 6-4 lead.
The weather really did spoil the game as the second half became a
knockonathon. Wigan had increased their lead to 8-4 with a penalty on 47 minutes
but with only a four points difference, it was still anyone's
game. The two team's slugged it out toe to toe, with no quarter asked nor
given. Wigan always looked the more likely to score, especially when Jason
Robinson had the ball, but the scrambling Leeds defence held firm. As the game
moved into its final ten minutes, the Rhinos were visibly tiring. The effect of
playing three punishing games in the last three weeks was taking its toll,
whereas Wigan had only played one game in the same period. In the last minute,
whilst Wigan had possession in the Leeds half, the Rhinos gave away a penalty
which ended their hopes. Farrell stepped up and not only slotted in over but
drilled the remaining time off the clock. The hooter went and Wigan were
The 1998 Grand Final winning Wigan team was: Kris Radlinski, Jason Robinson,
Danny Moore, Mark Bell, Henry Paul, Tony Smith, Terry O'Connor, Robbie
McCormack, Tony Mestrov, Stephen Holgate, Lee Gilmour, Andy Farrell. Subs were
Neil Cowie, Simon Haughton, Mick Cassidy and Paul Johnson.
Wigan who had won the first ever Wembley Challenge Cup Final in 1929 had now
won the first ever Super League Grand Final. Although it was the first Super
League title won by Wigan it was their 18th championship overall.
So Wigan were champions and they had also reached the Challenge Cup Final. It
suggested at the time that Wigan's glory days had in fact not died. They were
back and dominance was once again just around the corner. But it didn't turn out
that way in 1999.
Donate to Website
If you appreciate the efforts made on this site and would like to see them continue, donations are welcome to cover the increased running costs of this website. Cheers.
Copyright - Cherryandwhite.co.uk 2002-2010
Whilst every effort is made to ensure that news stories are correct, we cannot be held responsible for errors. Some articles and pictures on this website have been recovered from various sources for archive purposes. If any material on this website is subject to copyright or incorrect in any way please contact us
so we can remove it or negotiate copyright permission. RLFANS.COM, the owners of this website, the RLSA (Rugby League Supporters Association) or the 100% League Network are not responsible for the content of its sub-sites, please email the author of this sub-site if you feel you find an article offensive or of a choice nature that you disagree with.