The 2017 season review – not the easiest to write and I actually started doing so the day after the Grand Final. I have given up so many times and I think, that probably sums the season up. World Champions, Challenge Cup finalists and not a lot else… One good thing about the 2017 season, other than the very brief details below is that 2017 is the kind of season that makes success taste even sweeter. You have to experience the defeats, the lows to ensure that the highs are appreciated as much as they possibly can be and let’s face it if a “low” is being World Champions and making a Challenge Cup final, then we really are spoilt as Wigan fans, aren’t we?
The 2017 season ended with Leeds Rhinos as Grand Final winners, same old story from the records book may suggest, but 2017 was far from a regular rugby season. Castleford stormed to a brilliant League Leaders Shield winning performance, playing some fantastic, attractive rugby along the way – although the claims made by some that they were the best team in the Super League era, or that they had “re-defined the way Rugby League is played in the UK” to quote one Twitter user, amused many, myself included.
Hull FC, claimed the Challenge Cup for the second year in a row, resulting in heartbreak for Wigan fans, a deserved Wembley win but controversy over that disallowed Tony Clubb try may haunt Wigan fans for a few more years to come. Leigh came, put 50 past Wigan and then as quickly as they had arrived, disappeared – Hull KR the team they replace in 2017, replacing Leigh in 2018. The emergence of the Wolfpack in Toronto saw scepticism in January but nothing but admiration by September. Promoted from League One, attracting regular crowds of 7000+ – the Wolfpack look very likely to be a Super League side in 2019.
England got to the World Cup Final, only to be beaten, again, by Australia. A bit like Leeds winning the Super League Grand Final, the history books would suggest the same old story. But a 6-0 defeat in the World Cup Final, in what was a brutal game indicates that the gap between England and Australia is now as close as it ever has been.
As a summary, 2017 was a frustrating season for all involved at Wigan, there were the moments of sheer delight – the World Club Challenge win over Cronulla, the Challenge Cup run, the odd game of brilliant attacking play, like Warrington away in March and St Helens in September – an eighth Good Friday victory over St Helens. However, intertwine amongst those good times came an unprecedented injury crisis, the worst losing streak for 100 years, a Challenge Cup Final defeat, two 50+ point defeats and a whimper to the end of the season resulting in a sixth-place finish in the Super League, their worst final league position finish since Brian Nobles final season in 2009 – we all know what happened the following season …World Champions The 19th February 2017 will be a date fondly remembered by many fans for years to come, a date very much like the 7th October 1987 is. It may also be a date that, although 21,011 people witnessed Wigan’s win over Cronulla at the DW Stadium, over time, much more will claim to have been there. Critics may argue that Cronulla brought an understrength side, a side missing Australian test winger, Valentine Holmes and the recently banned, Ben Barba – although unknowingly at the time, Wigan would face Barba later in the year (he even provided an assist for Oliver Gildart 😉 ).
The Cronulla side that came over, however, still possessed genuine quality, the likes of Paul Gallen, Andrew Fifita, Matt Prior, Gerard Beale and Luke Lewis. It was a game in which lady luck has shown down on Wigan immensely, should 50/50 decisions in which Robert Hicks made certainly went Wigan’s way, as well as an early video referee decision. Overall though the class of George Williams, the finishing ability of Joe Burgess and the determination of the Wigan forwards on the day ensured Wigan came away from the game with a 22-6 victory and a record-breaking, fourth World Club Challenge victory. Given that victory at the start of the season and a trip to Wembley at the start of the season, I’m sure some fans would have taken that, however, the season has been a frustrating one for all with cherry and white blood.
It seems unfair to categorise the remaining 8 months of the season into a “rest of the season” paragraph or two but let’s do it in bullet points …
Flying Wingers – Tom Davies, Liam Marshall filled the void left by Manfredi, Tierney and Burgess through injuries incredibly well at times. Marshall’s try scoring was brilliant were as Tom Davies became the preferred selection later in the season due to his all-round game and probably because defensively he looks stronger than Marshall. Davies was rewarded with a place in the Wembley 17 man team only to be replaced just before the warmup by Marshall due to an injury.
Worst Run in over 100 years – 8 league games without a victory from April to July saw Wigan drop from two points off 1st place to 8th in the table.
Last minute draw at Magic Weekend thanks to Sean O’Loughlin’s pick point kick to Joe Burgess
Another Good Friday win (have I already mentioned that?!)
Another win in Catalan and another unbelievable following from the Wigan fans in the South of France.
Spoiling Ben Barba’s debut…
Wigan becoming the first team to organise a Super League game outside of Europe
Beating St Helens, Hull away in the two fixtures post Wembley only falter at home to Castleford and away to Wakefield in the last two games – and as a result, missing out on a top four place.
We held a Man of the Match vote online at our facebook page after every game in 2017, with the player who was voted Man of the Match being attributed 3 points for the Player of the Season award, who ever came second – two points and third place, receiving 1 point. After a blistering start to 2017, Morgan Escare led the leader board from the start and became a fans favourite. Such was his form and perhaps very telling of the rest of the season, Escare hung onto the leader board and was voted as the Wigan Rugby Blog Fans Player of the Year.
Other winners included Sean O’Loughlin – results can be viewed by clicking here.
Reasons to be hopeful in 2018….
The 2017 season will be remembered by most as a disappointing season, with the Wembley final and World Club Championship being perhaps the highlights. The stats do paint a very poor picture for Wigan, losing over 50% of their games in the league, a poor kicking conversion rate, no 40/20’s kicked throughout the season. Injuries largely to blame but what about 2018? Only one new recruit at the time of writing, untested, uncapped at professional grade – Gabe Hamlin – so why should Wigan fans to be hopeful in 2018…. (Click here)
Should you wish to look back and watch any highlights from the 2017 season – you can do so by clicking here.