After the debacle of last week’s supposed home fixture against Widnes, Wigan should actually be hosting their first home game of the 2017 Super League season this Friday against Borough sharing lobby gobblers Leigh Centurions.
In the team’s first league meeting since 2005, fans and players alike seem up for this one. Leigh have boasted sales of over 2000 for the fixture at the DW, the same amount as Wigan sold in an afternoon for their rearranged Widnes game last Friday, but still a good effort. Dad’s Army – or Leigh Centurions, take your pick – will be hopeful of causing a shock result with the blood of Saint Helens (never cheered Leigh more) still fresh in the their minds. Leigh have shown promise and will obviously be up for getting one over on the Wigan side, hoping to avoid embarrassment again after the 62-6 drumming they suffered them 12 years ago.
As referred to, if there’s one thing Leigh do have it’s an experienced set of lads. They’ve done more miles than a second hand car dealership between them, and if used effectively this could bring the game to Wigan. Among the experience is a lot of former Wigan blood itself, Danny Tickle and Gareth Hock to name just a couple of the seven squad members that have links with either Wigan’s first team or academy set up. The Wigan captain was asked about what he was expecting from the game and what having neighbours Leigh back in the league means to the Wigan side. “There are a lot of blokes there who have been at this club and know what Wigan is about,” O’Loughlin said, “It’s great to have Leigh back in Super League and to have this fixture. I think the rivalry is up there with Wigan and Saints. They’re great games to be involved in.”
Leigh’s experience will also hope to capitalise on the absence of the injured Oliver Gildart, part of a duo with Burgess that has combined to score 11 tries in three games, one more than Leigh’s team have managed thus far. Gildart will be replaced by a debutant, either Liam Marsh or Liam Forsyth, and this is surely something Leigh would hope to expose. Also missing is opposite edge second rower John Bateman, a much loved player by the fans known for his no nonsense style of play with or without ball in hand. Without Bateman you’d expect Ryan Sutton to slot in place, and although he is someone who has proved himself time and time again you’d expect the likes of Hock to be all over him.
Leigh are also expecting to field a debutant in Curtis Naughton, the new loan signing from Hull, and the youngster could prove to be a danger if lining up against Marshall or Forsyth, in place of Adam Higson. Either way I’m expecting a tough, physical game, with handbags at dawn on the menu. If Gareth Hock and Tony Clubb don’t at least have words then I’ll swap my pie for a pasty.
Leigh know what it would do to their confidence to get that second win under their belt, and to get it against Wigan would be all the sweeter. It might only be 7 miles between the two towns but the fortunes of the clubs are light years apart. Leigh haven’t beaten Wigan in the league since 1984, when Sean O’Loughlin was only two, we had Thatcher in charge, you could get a house in London for 40k and Donald Trump had his own hair.
Hopefully the crowd will get the derby atmosphere going, and when that happens form can hit the window and really bring the best out of both sides. Fans want derby games to live long and I can only see positives in Leigh being back in the Super League, where some dodgy haircuts round here might say they belong.
Wigan Warriors: Burgess, Bretherton, Clubb, Escaré, Farrell, Flower, Forsyth, Gelling, Isa, Leuluai, Marshall, Nuuausala, O’Loughlin, Powell, Sutton, Tautai, Tierney, Tomkins, Williams.
Leigh Centurions: Brown, Crooks, Tonga, Dawson, Drinkwater, Hock, Higham, Weston, Hansen, Pelissier, Tickle, Vea, Hampshire, Reynolds, Green, Hopkins, Acton, Burr, Naughton.