Well in terms of stature, Wigan v Hull FC is
hardly "The Big One" but it's not about the match anymore. "The
Big One" has become a brilliant marketing brand, dreamt up by
Marketing Director Simon Collinson and his team.
Simon joined us in July 2004 for Bradford and it's amazing how the
marketing of this club has changed since then. Hard to imagine now
but in May 2003 we had a home league attendance of just 7,393 when
Halifax visited the then JJB Stadium.
That was one of four less than 8,000
attendances between 2002 and 2003, attendances of half our average
attendance today! Exactly one year from Simon's arrival here we
had a crowd of 9,021 for a visit of Wakefield in July 2005 and
that has proven to be the last time since we got a sub five figure
crowd for a league game here.
It's not just "The Big One" though. We've had
other brands such as "home opener", "St George's Day Game" and
"Armed Forces Night" amongst others and I don't think any club has
come close to matching our simple but effective ways of branding
certain Super League regular season matches here at DW Stadium.
Collinson was at Bradford prior to joining us and it's perhaps no
coincidence that Bradford's attendances and marketing went the
opposite way to ours since he left.
attendances are great though, it is still clear to me that we
simply lack flow when playing at home and I can't quite work it
out why. Away from home we look a magnificent machine that 9 times
out of ten I'd back to win comfortably to be honest. At home we
just seem to make hard work of it.
away, granted from two games more, we have a points difference of
+355. At home it's just +146. You'd think that would be the other
way round really but for some reason we just cannot get round to
making this venue at fortress. It's a concern for me, not only
ahead of the visit of Hull but also with the home play offs to
I'm not so much worried about Hull per se
ahead of this game, but more that I think considering who we have
out, together with the fact we miss goal kicks, I worry we will
get caught out in this one by our own missed opportunities.
I hope I'm proved wrong but Darrell Goulding, Brett Finch, Sean
O'Loughlin, Ben Flower, Pat Richards, Paul Prescott, Gil Dudson
and Thomas Leuluai is an ever increasing hefty injury list to deal
with. I'm convinced a lot of those are just "not worth risking"
type injuries but it is a concern with Warrington to play eight
days down the line.
Sam Powell comes in to debut
and I've got to be honest, personally I remain unconvinced he is
good enough for Wigan but playing in the first team is the best
way to judge a player. I wouldn't have had Jack Murphy down for
much but he had an excellent debut against Bradford and hopefully
Powell will prove me wrong here.
Will be interesting to see who Waney plays in
the centres for Goulding. Jack Hughes has covered that position
seven times this season but Anthony Gelling has been playing at
Centre for the Under 20s since he was dropped three weeks ago.
As for Hull, I think our absences together with
a good couple of weeks form will have them well fired up. They've
beaten both Hull KR and Salford since "Don't Mess my Hair" joined
them from St Helens and he has kicked 10 goals out of 10 as well.
I'm still not convinced by their defence though.
One thing that is clear about Hull is that they
automatically "take the two". They have kicked 18 penalty goals
this season, which is ten more than any other Super League side.
So clearly our discipline needs to be key.
You look at some of Hull's scores this year -
20-20, 24-22, 14-10, 24-18, 14-12, 32-30, 18-18, 32-30, 28-24 -
and it shows they are often in tight games. Some of those were
wins, some were losses but we don't want to get into a position
were they slow us down and frustrate the hell of out us with
penalty goal attempts.
We need to try and control the match as much as
we can and hopefully Matty Smith can repeat the kicking game he
produced in the first half last week. It continually had
Castleford on the back foot and we ground them down eventually.
For me though a Wigan win will come from a huge pack effort. The
injury problems are in the backs and the pack needs to be cool and
calm. We'd have beaten Bradford but for Mike McIlorum's stupid red
card, so we don't need a repeat of that kind of shenanigans.
Remember also Hull FC suckered us in last year when Joel Tomkins
got a stupid red card, luckily we won on that occasion but I'm not
convinced we'd get away with that kind of idiocracy again.
This would be a huge win though if we got it. In a way it is a
bigger game than Warrington. We have a chance to go five points
clear again and take the pressure off ourselves when we visit
Warrington. Lose and we could be faced going to Warrington having
to win to defend our 1st place. Maybe this really is the "Big One"
then. I think this match will decide the league leaders shield in
our favour if it's won. Will it happen though? We shall see.