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Wigan Evening Post 18th Man Column - 24th February
Posted by Bilko on February 25 2015 - 22:58

Whether you thought that Brisbane game was a big contest or a “glorified friendly”, the fact almost 21,000 turned out for it just can’t be ignored.

Last week I wrote about being under whelmed by the qualification towards this World Club Series, but the weekend was an enjoyable one for me. The poor state of the pitch didn’t allow for a great game in terms of skill at Wigan but it was a fantastic battle and we should take a lot from how we performed defensively in particular.

Saints heavy loss to South Sydney I’m sure was enjoyed by a few reading this but I don’t think it should have come as such a surprise.

I’d argue that Saints team are, by far, the most inexperienced champions to ever contest a World Club Challenge. The old “Top 8” play off system was so weak in my eyes that it just didn’t prepare Saints well enough for the challenge of South Sydney and winning the Grand Final against twelve men for 79 minutes didn’t do them any favours either. They also had very limited test experience to draw upon when compared to Wigan’s side that had seven England Internationals and a former Queensland Full Back.

I’m confident the new “Super 8s” and then “Top 4” play offs this season will ensure a far more competitive and intense league here and that can only help if the World Club Series is repeated next year. I wouldn’t write this idea off too soon.

Meanwhile, in the post match press conference on Saturday coach Shaun Wane was asked about John Bateman and he said “if you compare John to Sean O’Loughlin when he was 21, he’s way in front!”

That’s high praise indeed because you have to remember that Lockers was made Wigan captain when he was just 22. We only see John on the field obviously but I can see where he is coming from with that statement. The season is still in its toddler stage but the signs from Bateman have been fantastic so far, particularly in attack.

In fact I was thinking that had Lockers been fit last Saturday, it would have been an incredibly tough choice of who to drop to the bench in the Second Row.

Assuming Dan Sarginson was always coming back in at centre, Joel Tomkins was up for moving back into the forwards and he’d started well scoring three tries in the first two games. Bateman had been great like I’ve said and Liam Farrell has started 69 games since he last appeared off the bench.

So which one of Joel, Bateman or Farrell would you have dropped? It would have been a harsh call and I was even debating that on form so far this year Lockers might have been up for being dropped. Yes I know, unthinkable, but let’s hope this top form continues!

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