McIlorum to Canberra – win, win for all?

Could the possible departure of Mickey Mac be a win/win situation for all?

The rumoured interest of Canberra Raiders in Michael McIlorum broke last night, with the Raiders reportedly interested in McIlorum as a replacement for the injured Josh Hodgson, having been impressed with his performances for Ireland in the World Cup. Whether McIlorum departs Wigan for the Green Machine remains to be seen.

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McIlorum, who is coming to the end of his testimonial year with the Warriors is a true fans favourite. A no-nonsense, uncompromising hooker – the kind of player that you love to have on your team and the kind of player you would hate if he was on the opposition side. Born in Yorkshire but brought through the Wigan Academy system, its fair to say most fans would be gutted to see McIlorum leave Wigan and rightly so. However, could this potential move but the perfect one for all concerned?


By the time the 2018 season starts, Mickey Mac will be 30 and the opportunity to test himself in the NRL was probably something that he wouldn’t have expected to happen at that age. He has spent the past ten seasons plying his trade for the Warriors and missed the majority of the 2016 campaign with a horrific injury picked up in the World Club Series game against Brisbane. If Canberra’s interest prevails, this could be an opportunity that McIlorum wouldn’t have expected and maybe one that he cant turn down; the opportunity to test himself against the best players in the world, pretty much guaranteed to be playing every week with Hodgson’s injury. You can assume that this kind of opportunity won’t come around again…



The Raiders have recently tied Josh Hodgson down on a long-term contract only for him to be ruled out for the 2018 season a week or so later. They have a crisis on their hands in terms of hookers at their club and trying to find a proven high-quality hooker at the eleventh hour is probably hard to do. Canberra know that they will get a very good professional in McIlorum, probably not the hooker to set the world alight like Hodgson can but a player who will do the basics well and someone who will not take a backward step. Once Hodgson is fit again, McIlorum could be the perfect interchange replacement for Hodgson to ensure intensity in the game does not drop. And, lets face it, buying a hooker from the Super League is going to be much cheaper than trying to find an adequate replacement in the NRL.

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How can this potential situation be of benefit to Wigan? Well, stick with me on this one. Wigan fans, players and staff I’m sure will be gutted if McIlorum does leave the club but this could be the perfect scenario for him do so. Moving on a fans favourite is never going to be easy but if he is in demand from another club, doesn’t necessarily want to leave but the opportunity is too good to turn down – that potential bitter taste is not quite as bitter as say, Wigan not renewing his contract in two years time.

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McIlorum’s potential departure could make Shaun Wane’s selection dilemma next season all the easier and possibly better. At the moment, based on the 2017 squad numbers and positions you would expect the following players to be fighting for the following spots:

Full Back: Sam Tomkins and Morgan Escare

Half Backs: George Williams, Thomas Leuluai, Jake Shorrocks

Hooker: Michael McIlorum, Sam Powell, Josh Ganson

If, McIlorum is taken out of the equation, Shaun Wane could be forced into a spine of:

Full Back: Morgan Escare

Half Backs: George Williams and Sam Tomkins, Jake Shorrocks

Hooker: Thomas Leuluai and Sam Powell, Josh Ganson

All of a sudden, for me, the second scenario looks far more mouthwatering from an attacking perspective that the first scenario. The potential departure of McIlorum would always assist in the pathway for one of the most talented young hookers in the game, Josh Ganson.

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The other aspect of the possible departure is the salary cap, the departure of your frontline hooker is likely to create a bit of space in the salary cap for Shaun Wane to potentially strengthen his squad before the 2018 season – it could give him the money to buy a much-needed workhouse prop, a la Andy Coley.

Of course, the move for Mickey Mac may not materialise and should he still be here for the opening game of the season against Salford, I for one will be delighted. However, his possible departure may not be all doom and gloom.

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