Another Trial By TV For Hicks
First let me start with an apology. Referees should never be the focus of any sensible rugby league discussion but it is hard to ignore the impact that Robert Hicks had on Wigan’s World Club Challenge win over Cronulla Sharks on Sunday (February 19). He produced one of the most spectacularly one-eyed officiating performances in living memory as Wigan’s inexorable march towards turning rugby league into WWE wrestling continued. The result was one of the ugliest rugby league spectacles you will see this season, even if it did help stop the rot in terms of the increasingly boring pastings that English sides had been suffering in World Club Series games.
Now all eyes will be on Hicks as he takes charge of this Thursday’s televised encounter between Hull FC and Catalans Dragons (February 23). The much fancied black and whites opened their Super League campaign with a narrow 12-8 win over Wakefield Trinity, while the Dragons got off to an even better start in seeing off a Warrington Wolves side which was about to embark upon its own Aussie-bashing mission. The sides look evenly matched although you would probably fancy FC given Catalans almost obligatory travel sickness since they entered the competition in 2006. It should be a good one, though it is difficult to shake the feeling that Hicks, along with a video review system that is currently making the sport look absurd, will have too much of an influence on the outcome.
A Gentle Assignment For The Newly Crowned World Champions?
Not too dwell on it too much (no, really) but Wigan’s win over Cronulla saw them claim a record fourth world title. Their persistent meddling and messing around at the ruck ensured a physical battle, so what they need right now is a more gentle assignment not only to ease themselves back into Super League action but also to ensure that they are not toppled from their lofty perch too quickly. We can’t have the world champions being belted by some middle of the road Super League side just days after their crowning glory?
So step forward Widnes Vikings, a squad which looks frighteningly out of its depth at this level and which served notice of that with an opening day 28-16 defeat to the hardly all-conquering Huddersfield Giants. It’s difficult to see how even a beaten up Wigan side which may be shorn of one or two regulars can fail to beat a Vikings outfit which looks a dead cert for Middle-eightdom by August. Kevin Brown’s outstanding performance for Warrington against the Broncos only served to highlight exactly what Denis Betts’ side will be missing this year and with Joe Mellor also currently on the injury list creativity at half is in desperately short supply.
Of course with so many ex-Wigan players on the books there will be no shortage of motivation for Widnes to get one over on their old side, but rugby league by its nature is generally a game in which the best team always wins. A Vikings win in this one would represent a greater shock than either of the English teams’ successes over their NRL counterparts last weekend.
Click next for “Will Old Boys Return To Haunt Giants?”