Five Drives... and a Kick in a bar filled with rugby nostalgia or pop concert. There is a desire and passion to engage. We are all committed to the city and, while realising results are vital, want to play our part in making the Provident Stadium a fortress again. We have to look at off-field sustainability and that is where the new board is full of ideas and drive.”
One is to cover the popular side, thereby honouring a promise to the fans. New women’s toilets are on the agenda too.
“The organization is buzzing,” Kenny added. “We can’t wait for the season.” And with that, off he went, in search of an enticing cup cake.
SUNSHINE STATEMENT OF INTENT WIGAN RETURN FROM FLORIDA
The sky is grey when Wigan Warriors return from Florida. During Michael Maguire’s tenure as coach, warmweather training was ditched for freezing Scottish army camps but, for the second year running, current boss Shaun Wane has insisted on the sunnier climes of the USA as his men develop the attacking flair he craves.
In 2012, the theory worked - to a degree. Wigan amassed 994 points over 27 weekly rounds to collect a second League Leaders’ Shield in three years. But the Cherry and Whites were denied the ultimate silverware by two stellar performances from Leeds in the Challenge Cup and Super League semifinals, so big-game execution was an area of focus this time around.
“We’re an honest group,” reflects Lee Mossop, who broke into the Wigan first team under Maguire, as his fellow pack members completed a heavy weights session behind him. “One game which stands out is the one against Widnes [a 37-36 defeat in round six]. If we players aren’t reaching our standards, we say so in meetings after the game.”
A ten-day camp that included training with mixed martial arts fighters at the famous Jungle gym in Orlando, was also a chance for points-scoring machine Pat Richards to work on his new partnership with 20-year-old second rower-come-centre Jack Hughes, who has the astronomical task of filling the venerated boots of George Carmont.
“His attitude is spot on,” says Richards, a Grand Final winner in both hemispheres, as well as the 2010 Man of Steel. “He’s a great athlete with a bit of pace about him. Jack has to work on a few things, but he’s going to be a pretty good player.”
Richards is taking the responsibility of mentoring Hughes seriously and is already impressed with how the England Academy international has responded to his advice. “I’ve tipped him off about a few things and he’s got them spot on straight away. He has a hard act to follow obviously, but hopefully
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he’ll bring his own strengths to the job.”
No sooner are those words of praise out of the Ireland international winger’s mouth than Hughes himself wanders past, at which Richards lowers his already soft-spoken tones to a hush. “Defending out wide you have to make more decisions; in the middle you can get away with a few things.”
Another new key partnership in the wake of the twin departure of half-backs Brett Finch and Tommy Leuluai will be that of Matty Smith and Blake Green. If the Wigan faithful are understandably worried by that, Richards is again reassuring. It is all going according to script.
“Blake’s doing really well,” he says. “He’s been here about eight weeks now and is a good character and a great bloke. He’s got a lot about his game that will help the side I reckon. My missus is happy too. It’s good to have an Aussie accent around as we are heavily outnumbered at the moment.”
Along with those skills sessions and conditioning that included a triathlon won by Liam Farrell, while in the Sunshine State the Wigan lads took time to explore Florida and take in NFL and NBA games. “By the end of it everyone was knackered,” smiles Richards, as his team-mates clang weights back into place. “Usually at the end of pre-season training you can lie down, but this time we were always doing something. It was great.”
With such pivotal changes to Wigan’s 2013 cast, it was imperative that every minute was spent wisely. “We were there longer than the December before so we could really settle in.” he says. “That was better for the new halves and we did a lot of team work drills so they could learn to play together.”
Like Mossop though, Richards can’t help but show an obvious pang when last season’s shortfalls are brought-up.
“We’re still thinking about it,” he admits, honestly. “Everyone knows we came up short there. All you can do is your best and we did that in every session in the US. We got a lot of quality work done that hopefully will come good towards the back end of the season.”
KUMULS COURT CONTROVERSY PAPUA NEW GUINEA IN 1995
The 1995 World Cup, masterminded by Maurice Lindsay, was a tremendous success both on and off the field. All participating countries recognised the imprint of the great Wiganer on the event.
Lindsay had a flair for detailed preparation. Nothing escaped his beady eye and he would battle on relentlessly, ignoring the naysayers, until everything fell into place.
I was RFL President and he never asked me to do anything - he demanded - and, believe me, it was time saving to agree. He knew that with so many countries visiting the UK, trouble could easily erupt either by misunderstanding or through boisterous behaviour. “Let us get our defences in first,” he urged and, as a result, we had a team of lawyers on standby to go to any trouble spot night or day.
Our least sophisticated visitors were Papua New Guinea. The Kumuls were unaccustomed to the wiles of western civilisation, very few having slept in beds, never mind hotel rooms. Consternation duly arrived within 24 hours of their move into Hull. They escaped from their Australian management and paid a visit to the local dance hall. There, they met a young lady who, on returning with them to their temporary residence, shall we say politely, availed herself of their undoubted charms; nine members of the party introducing themselves to her, so to speak. She then went to the police and claimed the actions had been against her will. From memory, over twelve of the team were arrested and we, the ‘watchdogs’ were summoned to stations spanning Hull and Beverley.
Experienced and renowned criminal lawyer Tony Sugare from Leeds was in charge of the operation. Most of the players
Brawn in the USA: The Wigan players hit the wrestling mat in hot Florida temperatures WiganWarriors.com