Warrington’s ClubCall this week highlighted just why the system divides opinion. I can’t remember any one decision since the advent of ClubCall that was talked about so much in the preceding week. I would have been gobsmacked if the Wolves had picked Leeds, but many disagreed with that view. For in opting to avoid the Rhinos, Tony Smith’s side have instead chosen to play the best team in the league over the regular season. I think it was the correct call, despite Warrington beating Leeds a couple of weeks ago and the Giants being the top ranked team in the competition. Choosing to play the defending champions with proven playoff pedigree over a side who despite their dominance are yet to prove themselves in knockout football would have been lunacy. Regardless of how little part Smith played in a decision he is wholly against, I’m confident the Wolves got it right. And that is where the dubious nature of Warrington’s advantage lies, as Huddersfield are now ferociously fired up.
Although mightily relieved that the Sam Tomkins NRL move is finally public, I was a little surprised by its timing. It may well prove the spark Wigan need to elevate themselves back up to their Challenge Cup intensity for the Old Trafford push after a little post-Wembley wobble, but it does now provide a distraction – whether that proves positive or not. The key to Sam’s move is motivation. Chairman Ian Lenagan accepts that Sam cannot now be as motivated by the prospect of getting back to Wembley or Old Trafford – having already accomplished this – as he is by the challenge the NRL represents. Lenagan absolutely did not want to lose his star man this early in his current contract, and this is why the much-hyped transfer has dragged on. It was only ten days ago that Lenagan and Wigan accepted defeat in their battle to keep hold of their superstar full-back.
Since my last blog the Man of Steel shortlist has been confirmed and Danny Brough looks on course to land the honour for this first time. Sentimentally I’d love Jamie Peacock to win it and with no disrespect to Wigan’s brilliant captain Sean O’Loughlin – whose own value to the side was highlighted in their toils during his injury absence - I’d expect Brough and Peacock to be the one-two.
The BBC is currently putting plans together for its radio coverage of this year’s World Cup. For the first time ever, every single match will be live on the network – either on 5 Live Sports Extra or 5 Live and it promises to be a hugely exciting month with special preview shows and daily podcasts also poised. It is a big month for coach Steve McNamara and a number of players involved, and I reckon Steve’s probably pretty much there with the names he will chose to fly the flag. The question I am getting asked most in the office at the moment is who will finish fourth. This is based on an assumption of Australia, New Zealand and England contesting the top three places which is by no means a gimme. Who would complete that semi-final line-up? I currently have absolutely no idea, and that is probably what excites me most about the tournament.