OPINION: How Wigan can win the Grand Final (An optimists ramble…)

Wigan have five regular season games left, followed by (hopefully) seven Super 8’s games. Wigan are currently 7 points off the all-important fourth place – resulting in a semi-final place. Can Wigan make the semi-finals? Yes, but it will be difficult for a number of reasons which I will explore:
Points Gap
Seven points in thirteen games is a large gap to recover, but bear in mind it was only seven Super Leagues game ago in which Wigan played Castleford away in a game that, if Wigan had won, they would have moved to the top of the table. Seven games is a long time, never mind thirteen.
Wigan’s first five games in the run presents them with, on paper, a favourable run in, with only Huddersfield and Leeds currently above them in the table, Huddersfield being on points difference. Their next game is Huddersfield away who will be missing talisman, Jake Mamo and Sam Rapira. A difficult game nonetheless but a game made more favourable for Wigan after last weeks Challenge Cup victory and two key overseas recruits missing for the Giants.
Wigan then entertain Widnes at home, a game which again on paper you would expect Wigan, with their returned first teamers to win. A trip to Catalans follows, nourtourisly a difficult place to win but Catalans have been terrible recently but with a new coach in the shape of Steve McNamara, this could prove to be a difficult away game for the Warriors. Buoyed from last years impressive victory in South France, again Wigan will be confident of a victory.
Wigan finish the regular season with two home games, two games in a week marketed by the club as the Big One Week – it will be exactly that for Wigan’s hopes. Leeds and Warrington at home to finish the season, an opportunity to close the gap on Leeds and a must win game against Warrington who by that stage may have had their Middle 8’s status confirmed – or may be fighting for their lives to avoid it.
Five winnable games for Wigan but the key element to this run of five fixtures, is the other games in this period; games in which Wigan’s rivals for the top four places will be playing each other. Between now and the end of the regular season we have the following fixtures:
Hull v Wakefield
Leeds v Castleford
St Helens v Salford
Leeds v St Helens
Castleford v Hull
Wakefield v Castleford
Salford v Leeds
Leeds v Hull
Castleford v Salford
Hull FC v Huddersfield
Catalans v Castleford
Wakefield v St Helens
These are all fixtures that have the potential to go either way and as such, giving Wigan the opportunity to close the gap – so long as they win.
The Super 8’s, if Wigan get there will also see a likely scenario as above with the top eight teams playing each other every week, only one side can win meaning that again, if Wigan can win, they will move up the table.
Below I have attempted a prediction to showcase a scenario of how the season could play out – I am not Mystic Meg and I do wear Cherry and White tinted glasses so take the predictions with a pinch of salt, however, its purpose is to show that there is a way and the odds of Wigan being second favourites to win the Grand Final which have recently been showcased may not be too far off…
Challenge Cup
My biggest concern about Wigan’s top four chances and therefore their Super League chances is the Challenge Cup. Every year, without fail, since the Challenge Cup was moved to August the team that wins the Challenge Cup has a hangover. Look back through the record books, I reckon winning the Challenge Cup costs you four points at the very least, in the league. Wigan, are favourites for the cup with many bookmakers and as such, probably favourite to lose four points after the cup final.
Finding the cure for this hangover could be crucial to Wigan’s chances in winning a treble this year. No side has really managed the cup hangover well but, again Cherry and White tinted glasses on, this is where Wigan’s use of squad numbers up to 42 could pay dividends.
If, Wigan win the cup and its a big IF and I don’t mean to tempt fate, with the side that beat Warrington at the weekend. They would naturally look to rest players following a Wembley final; however they would have the likes of Wells, Tierney, Davies, Navarrette, Ganson, Forsyth, Field, Bretherton, Gregson, Connor Farrell (who is yet to play for Wigan this year) to call upon to lighten the load for those feeling any effects. That’s when Wigan’s squad could prove crucial and the last seven weeks of agony turn into a seven week learning curve which pay dividends at the business end of the season.
Here’s a scenario for the rest of the season, looking at the league after the next five games and then working on the principal that the top eight teams play each other. I am a Wigan fan, so this is probably (sub)consciously bias but hey ho, this is the Wigan Rugby Blog, but I think it’s useful to play the season out and understand the position Wigan are actually in…
Remaining Five Games:
Widnes W v Leigh
Hudds v W Wigan
Hull W v Wakefield
Leeds W v Cas
St Helens W v Salford
Warrington W v Catalan
Leeds W v St Helens
Cas W v Hull
Catalan W v Leigh
Wakefield v W Warrington
Salford W v Hudds
Wigan W v Widnes
Wakefield v W Cas
Hudds W v Widnes
St Helens W v Hull
Warrington W v Leigh
Catalans v W Wigan
Salford W  v Leeds
Wigan W v Warrington
Hudds W v Leigh
Leeds W v Hull
Widnes v W Wakefield
St Helens W v Catalans
Cas W v Salford
Warrington W v Widnes
Hull W v Hudds
Wigan W v Leeds
Catalans v W Cas
Leigh v W Salford
Wakefield  v W Saints
Table at end of Regular Season:
  1. Castleford 38
  2. Salford 30
  3. Leeds 30
  4. Hull 27
  5. Wigan 26
  6. St Helens 25
  7. Wakefield 24
  8. Huddersfield 20
  9. Warrington 18
  10. Catalans 15
  11. Widnes 11
  12. Leigh 10
Super 8’s Fixtures (Not in order but home v away is correct)
Cas W v Salford
Cas W v Leeds
Cas W v Wigan
Cas Wv St Helens
Hull W v Cas
Wakefield v W Cas
Huddersfield v W Cas
Salford  v W Leeds
Salford  v W Hull
Salford  v W St Helens
Salford W v Wakefield
Wigan W v Salford
Huddersfield v W Salford
Leeds W v Hull
Leeds v W Wigan
Leeds W v Wakefield
Leeds W v Hudds
St Helens W v Leeds
Hull v W Wigan
Hull W v St Helens
Hull W v Hudds
Wakefield v W Hull
Wigan W v St Helens
Wigan W v Wakefield
Hudds v W Wigan
St Helens W v Wakefield
St Helens W v Huddersfield
Wakefield W v Huddersfield
Predicted Final Table after Super 8’s
  1. Castleford 50
  2. Leeds 38
  3. Wigan 38
  4. Hull 37
  5. Salford 34
  6. St Helens 33
  7. Wakefield 26
  8. Huddersfield 20
Resulting in
Castleford v Hull
Leeds v Wigan
Which would mean, Castelford or Hull would have a shot at winning their first Super League title against Leeds or Wigan – perhaps a fitting end to the season?
Anything can happen, 13 rounds to go – remember, we are only 18 rounds into Super League.
Keep the faith, this could be a great season for Wigan

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