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Wigan Rugby League History - 1998 Season
Posted by cherryandwhite on November 06 2013 - 22:30
....Click to View: . 1997 Season

.or-

1999 Season

 

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

1998 JJB Sports Super League III Results CC = Challenge Cup PO = Play Off
Date Opposition Venue KO Resultl Tries Goals Report Att Referee TV
Sun 15 Feb CCR4: Keighley Away 3:00 Won 76-00 Robinson 3, McCormack, Bell, Paul 2, Murdock 2,
Gilmour, Haughton, Holgate, Connolly, Clarke
Farrell 10 Click Here

4700

S.Presley

-

Sun 1 Mar CC R5: Dewsbury Away 3:00 Won 56-00 Murdock 2, Moore, Robinson 3, Farrell, P.Johnson, Cardiss Farrell 10 Click Here

3350

S.Ganson

-

Sun 15 Mar CC QF: St Helens Home 1:45 Won 22-10 Moore, Robinson, Haughton, Betts Farrell 3 Click Here

17179

S.Cummings

Sun 29 Mar CC SF: London Hudds 1:45 Won 38-08 Robinson, Bell, Radlinski 2, Moore 2 Farrell 7 Click Here

11058

R.Smith

Sun 5 Apr Castleford Tigers Home 7:15 Won 18-04 Paul, Smith 2 Farrell 3 Click Here

10290

S.Cummings

Fri 10 Apr St Helens Away 12:45 Won 38-18 Radlinski, Robinson, Gilmour, Connolly, Smith, P.Johnson Farrell 7 Click Here

11414

R.Smith

Sun 19 Apr Halifax Blue Sox Home 3:00 Won 40-06 Bell, Betts, Connolly 3, Radlinski, Smith Farrell 6 Click Here

12841

S.Ganson

-

Sun 26 Apr London Broncos Home 6:35 Won 24-10 Smith, Gilmour, P.Johnson, Moore Farrell 4 Click Here

9233

S.Presley

Sat 2 May CC Final: Sheffield Wembley 2:45 Lost 08-17 Bell Farrell 2 Click Here

60669

S.Cummings

Sun 10 May Sheffield Eagles Away 3:15 Won 36-06 Smith, Robinson, Bell, Moore 2, Radlinski Farrell 6 Click Here

8346

S.Presley

-

Fri 15 May Leeds Rhinos Away 7:45 Lost 08-16 Haughton Farrell 2 Click Here

18000

R.Smith

Fri 22 May Huddersfield Giants Home 7:30 Won 46-00 Radlinski, Farrell, Smith, Cowie, Paul, Robinson, Cardiss,
Gilmour
Farrell 4, Paul 1,
Connolly 2
Click Here

8966

K.Kirkpatrick

-

Sun 31 May Hull Sharks Away 3:15 Won 38-16 Moore 2, Connolly, Cowie, Haughton, Robinson Farrell 7 Click Here

6998

R.Smith

-

Sun 7 June Salford Reds Home 3:00 Won 34-06 Gilmour 2, Bell 2, Moore, Betts Farrell 5 Click Here

10075

S.Cummings

-

Fri 12 June Bradford Bulls Away 7:45 Won 28-12 Connolly 2, Bell, Cowie, Paul Farrell 4 Click Here

14103

S.Cummings

Sun 21 Jun Warrington Wolves Home 3:00 Won 56-08 Betts, Robinson, McCormack, Gilmour, Paul, Connolly,
Cassidy, P.Johnson 2
Farrell 10 Click Here

10149

R.Smith

-

Sun 28 Jun Castleford Tigers Away 3:30 Won 34-04 Connolly, Paul 2, Moore, P.Johnson, Farrell Farrell 5 Click Here

6734

S.Cummings

-

Sun 5 July St Helens Home 6:30 Won 38-14 Bell, Farrell, P.Johnson, O'Connor, Haughton 2 Farrell 7 Click Here

12461

R.Smith

Sun 26 July On the Road: St Helens Swansea 6:45 Won 36-02 Radlinski 2, Connolly, Farrell, Smith 2 Farrell 6 Click Here

8572

S.Cummings

Fri 31 July Halifax Blue Sox Away 7:30 Won 20-14 Radlinski, Paul, McCormack Farrell 4 Click Here

6522

S.Ganson

Fri 7 Aug London Broncos Away 7:30 Won 18-15 Smith, Bell 2 Farrell 3 Click Here

7963

S.Cummings

Sun 16 Aug Sheffield Eagles Home 3:00 Won 44-06 Paul 2, Farrell, Haughton, Holgate, Moore, Radlinski Farrell 8 Click Here

10175

S.Ganson

-

Fri 21 Aug Leeds Rhinos Home 7:30 Lost 08-15 Haughton Farrell 2 Click Here

12786

S.Cummings

Sun 30 Aug Huddersfield Giants Away 3:30 Won 38-14 Radlinski, Smith, P.Johnson 2, Connolly 2, Robinson Farrell 5 Click Here

5007

K.Kirkpatrick

-

Sun 6 Sept Hull Sharks Home 1:00 Won 58-06 Radlinski, Robinson 2, Connolly, P.Johnson, Bell, Paul 2,
Smith, Gilmour 2, Farrell.
Farrell 5 Click Here

7920

S.Ganson

-

Sun 13 Sep Salford Reds Away 6:35 Won 34-02 Smith, Bell, Baynes, Davies, Holgate Farrell 2, Paul 5 Click Here

4895

S.Presley

Sun 20 Sep Bradford Bulls Home 6:35 Won 38-04 P.Johnson 2, Haughton, Mestrov, Connolly 2 Farrell 7 Click Here

11181

R.Smith

Sun 27 Sep Warrington Wolves Away 3:00 Won 30-24 Smith 2, Radlinski, P.Johnson, Paul, Bell Farrell 3 Click Here

5762

S.Cummings

-

Sun 11 Oct PO Qual: Leeds Home 6:45 Won 17-04 Gilmour, Bell, Paul Farrell 2 + DG Click Here

12941

S.Cummings

Sat 24 Oct Grand Final: Leeds MUFC 6:30 Won 10-04 Robinson Farrell 3 Click Here

43533

R.Smith

1998 Match Team Sheet List
alaaDatealaa Opponent aIResultIL 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Sub Sub Sub Sub
Sun 15 Feb Kei (A) W(CCR4) Radlinski BelllT ConnollylT Moore RobinsonlT3 PaullT2 MurdocklT2 Cowie McCormacklT HolgatelT Cassidy HaughtonlT FarrelllG10 ClarkelT Smyth GilmourlT Hansen
Sun 1 Mar Dew (A) W(CCR5) Radlinski Bell Connolly MoorelT RobinsonlT3 Smith MurdocklT2 Cowie McCormack Holgate Cassidy Haughton FarrelllTlG10 CardisslT P.JohnsonlT Gilmour Mestrov
Sun 15 Mar St H (H) W(CCQF) Radlinski Bell Connolly MoorelT RobinsonlT Paul Smith Mestrov McCormack Holgate Cassidy HaughtonlT FarrelllG3 BettslT O'Connor Gilmour Cowie
Sun 29 Mar Lon (N) W(CCSF) RadlinskilT2 BelllT Connolly MoorelT2 RobinsonlT Paul Smith Mestrov McCormack Holgate Betts Haughton FarrelllG7 Cassidy O'Connor Gilmour Cowie
Sun 5 Apr Cas (H) W18-04 Radlinski Gilmour Connolly Moore Robinson PaullT SmithlT2 Cowie McCormack Mestrov Betts Haughton FarrelllG3 Cassidy O'Connor P.Johnson Holgate
Fri 10 Apr St H (A) W38-18 RadlinskilT GilmourlT ConnollylT Moore RobinsonlT Paul SmithlT O'Connor McCormack Mestrov Betts Cassidy FarrelllG7 Clarke Cowie P.JohnsonlT Holgate
Sun 19 Apr Hal (H) W40-06 RadlinskilT BelllT ConnollylT3 Moore Robinson Paul SmithlT O'Connor McCormack Mestrov BettslT Cassidy FarrelllG6 Gilmour Cowie Haughton Holgate
Sun 26 Apr Lon (H) W24-10 Radlinski Bell Connolly MoorelT Robinson FarrelllG4 SmithlT Holgate McCormack Mestrov GilmourlT Haughton Betts P.JohnsonlT Cowie Cassidy O'Connor
Sat 2 May Shef (N) L (CCF) Radlinski BelllT Connolly Moore Robinson Paul Smith Holgate McCormack Mestrov Betts Haughton FarrelllG2 Gilmour Cowie Cassidy O'Connor
Sun 10 May Shef (A) W36-06 RadlinskilT BelllT Connolly MoorelT2 RobinsonlT Paul SmithlT Cowie McCormack Mestrov Betts Haughton FarrelllG6 Gilmour Holgate Cassidy P.Johnson
Fri 15 May Lee (A) L08-16 Radlinski Gilmour Connolly Moore Robinson Paul Smith Cowie McCormack Mestrov Betts Cassidy FarrelllG2 HaughtonlT Holgate Clarke P.Johnson
Fri 22 May Hud (H) W46-00 RadlinskilT Bell ConnollylG2 Moore RobinsonlT PaullTlG SmithlT CowielT McCormack Mestrov Betts Cassidy FarrelllTlG4 Haughton Holgate GilmourlT CardisslT
Sun 31 May Hull (A) W38-16 Radlinski Bell ConnollylT MoorelT2 RobinsonlT Paul Cardiss CowielT McCormack Mestrov Betts HaughtonlT FarrelllG7 Cassidy Holgate Gilmour P.Johnson
Sun 7 June Sal (H) W34-06 Radlinski BelllT2 Connolly MoorelT GilmourlT2 Paul Cardiss Cowie McCormack Mestrov BettslT Haughton FarrelllG5 Cassidy Baynes Robinson P.Johnson
Fri 12 June Bra (A) W28-12 Radlinski BelllT ConnollylT2 MoorelT Robinson Paul Cardiss CowielT McCormack Mestrov Betts Gilmour FarrelllG4 Cassidy Baynes O'Connor P.Johnson
Sun 21 Jun War (H) W56-08 Radlinski Bell ConnollylT Moore RobinsonlT PaullT Cardiss Cowie McCormacklT Mestrov BettslT CassidylT FarrelllG10 GilmourlT Baynes O'Connor P.JohnsonlT2
Sun 28 Jun Cas (A) W34-04 Radlinski Bell ConnollylT MoorelT Robinson PaullT2 Smith Cowie McCormack Mestrov Betts Cassidy FarrelllTlG5 Gilmour Haughton O'Connor P.JohnsonlT
Sun 5 July St H (H) W38-14 Radlinski BelllT Connolly Moore Robinson Paul Smith Cowie McCormack Mestrov Betts Gilmour FarrelllTlG7 Cassidy HaughtonlT2 O'ConnorlT P.JohnsonlT
Sun 26 Jul St H (N) W36-02 RadlinskilT2 Bell ConnollylT Moore Robinson Paul SmithlT2 O'Connor McCormack Mestrov Betts Haughton FarrelllTlG6 Cassidy Gilmour Clarke P.Johnson
Fri 31 July Hal (A) W20-14 RadlinskilT Bell Connolly Moore Robinson PaullT Smith O'Connor McCormacklT Mestrov Betts Haughton FarrelllG4 Cassidy Gilmour Holgate P.Johnson
Fri 7 Aug Lon (A) W18-15 Radlinski BelllT2 Connolly Moore Robinson Paul SmithlT Cowie McCormack Mestrov Betts Haughton FarrelllG3 Cassidy Gilmour O'Connor P.Johnson
Sun 16 Aug Shef (H) W44-06 RadlinskilT Bell Connolly MoorelT Robinson PaullT2 Smith O'Connor McCormack Mestrov Cassidy HaughtonlT FarrelllTlG8 Clarke Gilmour HolgatelT P.Johnson
Fri 21 Aug Lee (H) L08-15 Radlinski Bell Connolly Moore Robinson Paul Smith Cowie McCormack Mestrov Cassidy HaughtonlT FarrelllG2 Clarke Gilmour O'Connor P.Johnson
Sun 30 Aug Hud (A) W38-14 RadlinskilT RobinsonlT ConnollylT2 P.JohnsonlT2 Bell Paul SmithlT Cowie Clarke Mestrov Gilmour Holgate FarrelllG5 Cardiss Haughton O'Connor Isherwood
Sun 6 Sept Hull (H) W58-06 RadlinskilT RobinsonlT2 ConnollylT P.JohnsonlT BelllT PaullT2 SmithlT O'Connor McCormack Mestrov GilmourlT2 Haughton FarrelllTlG5 Clarke Ball Holgate Isherwood
Sun 13 Sep Sal (A) W34-02 Radlinski Robinson Connolly P.Johnson BelllT PaullG5 SmithlT O'Connor McCormack Mestrov Gilmour Haughton FarrelllG2 Betts DavieslT HolgatelT BayneslT
Sun 20 Sep Bra (H) W38-04 Radlinski Robinson ConnollylT2 P.JohnsonlT2 Bell Paul Smith O'Connor McCormack MestrovlT Gilmour Holgate FarrelllG7 Moore Clarke HaughtonlT Baynes
Sun 27 Sep War (A) W30-24 RadlinskilT Robinson Connolly P.JohnsonlT BelllT PaullT SmithlT2 O'Connor McCormack Mestrov Holgate Haughton FarrelllG3 Moore Clarke Gilmour Isherwood
Sun 11 Oct Lee (H) W(SLPO) Radlinski BelllT Connolly Moore Robinson PaullT Smith O'Connor McCormack Mestrov Holgate GilmourlT FarrelllG2lDG Haughton Clarke Cowie P.Johnson
Sat 24 Oct Lee (N) W(SLGF) Radlinski RobinsonlT Connolly Moore Bell Paul Smith O'Connor McCormack Mestrov Holgate Gilmour FarrelllG3 Haughton Cassidy Cowie P.Johnson

Squad

Appearances

Scoring

No Playeraaaaaaaaaaa Starts Subs Total Tries Goals DG Points
1 Kris Radlinski 30 - 30 13 - - 52
2 Jason Robinson 29 1 30 17 - - 68
3 Danny Moore 25 2 27 12 - - 48
4 Gary Connolly 30 - 30 16 2 - 68
5 Mark Bell 27 - 27 15 - - 60
6 Henry Paul 28 - 28 15 6 - 72
7 Tony Smith 25 - 25 15 - - 60
8 Neil Cowie 15 8 23 3 - - 12
9 Robbie McCormack 29 - 29 3 - - 12
10 Tony Mestrov 28 1 29 1 - - 4
11 Denis Betts 18 2 20 4 - - 16
12 Simon Haughton 18 9 27 9 - - 36
13 Andy Farrell 30 - 30 7 152 1 333
14 Mick Cassidy 11 13 24 1 - - 4
15 Jon Clarke 1 8 9 1 - - 4
16 Terry O'Connor 11 12 23 1 - - 4
17 Stephen Holgate 11 11 22 3 - - 12
18 Lee Hansen - 1 1 - - - 0
19 Craig Murdock 2 - 2 4 - - 16
20 Lee Gilmour 13 17 30 10 - - 40
21 Andy Johnson - - - - - - 0
22 Rob Smyth - 1 1 - - - 0
23 Daryl Cardiss 4 3 7 2 - - 8
25 Paul Johnson 5 19 24 13 - - 52
26 Neil Baynes - 5 5 1 - - 4
27 Andrew Isherwood - 3 3 - - - 0
28 Rob Ball - 1 1 - - - 0
29 Wes Davies - 1 1 1 - - 4
- Totals: - - - 167 158 1 985

Top Appearances (Total Games: 30)
No Playeraaaaaaaaaaa Starts Subs Total
1 Gary Connolly 30 - 30
2 Andy Farrell 30 - 30
3 Kris Radlinski 30 - 30
4 Jason Robinson 29 1 30
5 Lee Gilmour 13 17 30
6 Robbie McCormack 29 - 29
7 Tony Mestrov 28 1 29
8 Henry Paul 28 - 28
9 Mark Bell 27 - 27
10 Danny Moore 25 2 27
11 Simon Haughton 18 9 27
12 Tony Smith 25 - 25
13 Mick Cassidy 11 13 24
14 Paul Johnson 5 19 24
15 Neil Cowie 15 8 23
16 Terry O'Connor 11 12 23
17 Stephen Holgate 11 11 22
18 Denis Betts 18 2 20
19 Jon Clarke 1 8 9
20 Daryl Cardiss 4 3 7
21 Neil Baynes - 5 5
22 Andrew Isherwood - 3 3
23 Craig Murdock 2 - 2
24 Rob Ball - 1 1
25 Wes Davies - 1 1
26 Lee Hansen - 1 1
27 Rob Smyth - 1 1

Top Try Scorers
No Player Tries
1 Jason Robinson 17
2 Gary Connolly 16
3 Mark Bell 15
4 Henry Paul 15
5 Tony Smith 15
6 Paul Johnson 13
7 Kris Radlinski 13
8 Danny Moore 12
9 Lee Gilmour 10
10 Simon Haughton 9
11 Andy Farrell 7
12 Denis Betts 4
13 Craig Murdock 4
14 Neil Cowie 3
15 Stephen Holgate 3
16 Robbie McCormack 3
17 Daryl Cardiss 2
18 Neil Baynes 1
19 Mick Cassidy 1
20 Jon Clarke 1
21 Wes Davies 1
22 Tony Mestrov 1
23 Terry O'Connor 1

Top Goal Kickers
No Player Goals
1 Andy Farrell 152
2 Henry Paul 6

Top Drop Goal Kickers
No Player Drops
1 Andy Farrell 1

Top Points Scorers
No Player Points
1 Andy Farrell 333
2 Henry Paul 72
3 Jason Robinson 68
4 Gary Connolly 64
5 Mark Bell 60
6 Tony Smith 60
7 Paul Johnson 52
8 Kris Radlinski 52
9 Danny Moore 48
10 Lee Gilmour 40
11 Simon Haughton 36
12 Denis Betts 16
13 Craig Murdock 16
14 Neil Cowie 12
15 Stephen Holgate 12
16 Robbie McCormack 12
17 Neil Baynes 4
18 Mick Cassidy 4
19 Daryl Cardiss 8
20 Jon Clarke 4
21 Wes Davies 4
22 Tony Mestrov 4
23 Terry O'Connor 4

A playoff series was reinstated for the first time since 1973, with the Grand Final replacing the Premiership Final at Old Trafford, Manchester.

Carlisle Border Raiders merged with Barrow Braves to create Barrow Border Braves. As a result Widnes remained in Division 1 despite having been "relegated" to Division 2 in 1997.

1998 JJB Sports Super League III Final Table

- Team P W D L F A Diff Pts
1 Wigan Warriors 23 21 0 2 762 222 +540 42
2 Leeds Rhinos 23 19 0 4 662 369 +293 38
3 Halifax Blue Sox 23 18 0 5 658 390 +268 36
4 St Helens 23 14 1 8 673 459 +214 29
5 Bradford Bulls 23 12 0 11 498 450 +48 24
6 Castleford Tigers 23 10 1 12 446 522 -76 21
7 London Broncos 23 10 0 13 415 476 -61 20
8 Sheffield Eagles 23 8 2 13 495 541 -46 18
9 Hull Sharks 23 8 0 15 421 574 -153 16
10 Warrington Wolves 23 7 1 15 411 645 -234 15
11 Salford Reds 23 6 1 16 319 575 -256 13
12 Huddersfield Giants 23 2 0 21 288 825 -537 4

Huddersfield Giants retained their place in Super League. Wakefield Trinity were promoted to Super League and joined in a 14 team competition by new franchisee Gateshead Thunder in 1999.

Play Off Results

 Week 1:
 
     St Helens 46 Bradford Bulls 24.
     Leeds Rhinos 16 Halifax Blue Sox 6.
 
 Week 2:
 
     Halifax Blue Sox 30 St. Helens 37.
     Wigan Warriors 17 Leeds Rhinos 4.
 
 Week 3:
 
     Leeds Rhinos 44 St Helens 16.
 
 Grand Final:
 
     Wigan Warriors 10 beat Leeds Rhinos 4.
 
 
First Division Championship
Team P W D L F A Pts
Wakefield Trinity 30 22 1 7 790 506 45
Hull Kingston Rovers 30 20 1 9 748 480 41
Dewsbury Rams 30 19 2 9 723 481 40
Featherstone Rovers 30 17 1 12 779 613 35
Swinton Lions 30 17 1 12 702 544 35
Hunslet Hawks 30 17 1 12 719 575 35
Keighley Cougars 30 14 1 15 587 675 29
Whitehaven Warriors 30 13 0 17 636 657 26
Widnes Vikings 30 9 1 20 601 862 19
Rochdale Hornets 30 6 1 23 571 912 13
Leigh Centurions 30 6 0 24 505 1056 12
 

Finals Series

Week 1:

Featherstone Rovers 22 Swinton Lions 12.
Hull Kingston Rovers 18 Dewsbury Rams 2.

Week 2:

Wakefield Trinity 19 Hull Kingston Rovers 16.
Dewsbury Rams 10 Featherstone Rovers 20.

Week 3:

Hull Kingston Rovers 6 Featherstone Rovers 54.

Grand Final:

Wakefield Trinity 24 beat Featherstone Rovers 22.

There was no promotion and relegation between Divisions One and Two as they were merged into a single division in 1999.

Second Division Championship
Team P W D L F A Pts
Lancashire Lynx 20 13 2 5 561 339 28
York Wasps 20 14 0 6 476 280 28
Batley Bulldogs 20 13 0 7 437 354 26
Bramley 20 12 1 7 487 386 25
Oldham Roughyeds 20 10 1 9 399 383 21
Barrow Border Braves 20 8 2 10 354 377 18
Workington Town 20 3 2 15 293 558 8
Doncaster Dragons 20 2 2 16 289 619 6
 

1998 Friendly Results

Date Opposition Venue Result
Fri 26 Dec St Helens Home Won 46-2
Sun 25 Jan Leigh Away Won 32-10
Fri 30 Jan Hull Sharks Home Won 42-6

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 balance.

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 been.

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 leaders.

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 Headingley.

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 champions!

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.

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