It seems well longer ago now you know, but just three years ago to
the weekend I, along with 3,813 other fans, sat inside the then
JJB Stadium on a Monday Night witnessing the debut of a certain Sam Tomkins.
It could not have gone any better for the lad. Wigan beat
Whitehaven 106-8 and he scored five tries, including a hatrick
in just 12 minutes.
Now you'd have to go through old newspaper cuttings with a fine
toothcomb to discover if that really was the fastest hatrick in
Wigan Rugby League history, but it certainly matched the 12 minute
hatrick scored by Attie Van Heerden when Wigan claimed their
record victory in beating Flimby and
Fothergill United 116-0 in the 1924 Challenge Cup.
despite that 5 try debut, Sam Tomkins never made the first team
again in that 2008 season - even though Wigan won just 4 of 13
matches between June and the play offs beginning in September.
Seem's daft now doesn't it? Either way, what a three year's for
the lad. He's now not only a Grand Final winner and England
international but also seemingly the most hated player in Super
League by opposition supporters.
Why do I bring that up? Well Sam made his debut in a Challenge
Cup tie at home against non Super League opposition, just like Lee
Mossop did a month earlier that year against SM Pia. It's the
first time since then that we've played lower division opposition
at home in the cup and I'm hoping we will see another kid get a
chance. Surely this is a perfect opportunity to give Dom Crosby a
debut considering he's been 18/19th man so often in recent week? Perhaps it's also an opportunity to test out Logan Tomkins or Joe
Mellor? (Edit: Since I wrote this Crosby has been omitted from the
squad - see down page)
Of course, it was just two years ago that we
last met Barrow in the Challenge Cup. Us Wigan fans certainly
enjoyed our trip up to Craven Park on a lovely sunny day but on
the field it was a massive sweat in winning 32-20. With 12 minutes
to go, Wigan only led 24-20 before late tries from Karl Pryce and
Sam Tomkins sealed the victory.
Barrow went on to win the
Championship Grand Final that season but this year they haven't
quite reached those standards. They made an early, group stage,
exit from the Northern Rail Cup which saw then coach Bitter
Schofield depart after just five games in charge. Replacing him
was Nigel Wright who made 1,492 appearances (that's 36 appearances
on the pitch and 1,456 appearances on the treatment table)
for Wigan between August 1993 and September 1997.
was struggling early in his Barrow coaching career, with them
winning just one of his first five matches in charge, but a narrow
loss at league leaders Leigh on Good Friday backed up by victories
over Widnes on Easter Monday and Halifax last Sunday, I would
suggest, equals a pretty successful Easter.
They are however
apparently struggling with injuries ahead of the trip to Wigan on
Sunday. Gary Broadbent, Richard Fletcher, James Coyle (all knee)
and James Nixon (broken leg) are all absent, whilst Ben Davies and
Jack Hughes (on loan/dual reg forwards from Wigan) won't play and
neither will Adam Walker, a dual-reg forward from Huddersfield. So
they are looking pretty lightweight in the pack.
North West Evening News reports that whilst they, just about, have
18 players to pick from, the club are searching for any potential
signings ahead of the game, which they can still do until 2pm on
Friday. Not likely they will sign anyone but that really
highlights how desperate they are.
So, considering Barrow are
struggling for players it seems even more of an opportunity to
give a couple of youngsters a chance. Either way I can only see a
huge Wigan victory on Sunday. I know Barrow in 2009, and Sheffield
last yearm both did themselves very proud against us but I think
their is a huge difference these days between a Challenge Cup tie
against lower league opposition at home, to one away.
rare that a Super League side struggles at home against a non
Super League side, although Barrow did beat Castleford away 34-28
in the Cup last year. Maybe I am under-estimating them too much,
but I did witness a
beat Barrow's 1st Team pretty convincing in pre season, so on
the evidence seen that day, I really can't see Barrow giving us
too many problems. But we shall see!