If you were to travel south of Cheshire to any part of the country and asked people to name a rugby league team I’d guess that Wigan would be a fairly popular answer. Wigan RL is an institution, so much history and tradition. Since the mid 80s they have lead the way in the sport with so much success.
Over the years the town of Wigan with its many amateur clubs has produced so many players that have gone on to represent all the different clubs in different divisions. Take Salford for example, we’ve had so many good Wigan born players over the years. That is something to be admired and respected.
The Wigan fixture is one I always look out for at the start of the season. I suppose a comparison could be Manchester United in football. They are a significant scalp if you manage to beat them and no matter how much rival fans don’t like them they certainly can’t be ignored.
Wigan notched up an incredible eight consecutive Challenge Cup Titles between 1988 and 1995. Ironically it was Salford that brought that winning running to an end on a monumental day at The Willows in February 1996.
Although Wigan’s dominance in the summer era has been more modest, they have still managed three Challenge Cup wins, five Super League Titles and were World Club Champions In 2017.
Wigan celebrate their 8th successive Challenge cup win in 1995.
After coach Shaun Wanes departure at the end of last season along with several key players leaving Wigan have struggled to build any momentum. Form has been patchy but over the last month or so results have gone in their favour after some battling performances. Going in to Friday nights clash The Warriors sit one place below Salford level on 18 points. The Red Devils have a superior points difference.
Their still seems to be an uncertainty over who will be Wigan coach for next season. It’s going to be interesting to see what unfolds over the next few months.
Both sides have it all to play for and are capable of mounting an assault on the Top Five.
Super League away record.
1997 Wigan 14 Salford 21
1998 Wigan 34 Salford 6
1999 Wigan 64 Salford 2
2000 Wigan 52 Salford 20
2001 Wigan 70 Salford 4
2002 Wigan 32 Salford 0
2004 Wigan 20 Salford 10
2005 Wigan 40 Salford 12
2006 Wigan 20 Salford 12
2007 Wigan 40 Salford 16
2009 Wigan 34 Salford 18
2010 Wigan 60 Salford 10
2011 Wigan 52 Salford 18
2012 Wigan 38 Salford 6
2013 Wigan 46 Salford 6
2014 Wigan 45 Salford 4
2015 Wigan 19 Salford 12
2016 Wigan 20 Salford 16
2017 Wigan 16 Salford 31
2017 Wigan 42 Salford ( Super eights)
2018 Wigan 30 Salford 0
They played for both
Over the years there have been plenty of players who’ve been at both clubs at some point in their career. Here are a few of them,
Mal Aspey, Neil Baynes, Steve Blakeley, Gavin Clinch, Andy Coley, Michael Dobson, Mark Flanagan, Martin Gleeson, Sean Gleeson, Wayne Godwin, Bobbie Goulding, Andy Gregory, Steve Hampson, Ged Byrne, Paul O Neil,
Harrison Hansen, Gareth Hock, Nathan Mcavoy, Lee Mossop, Jack Murphy, David Myers, Martin Offiah, Sam Panapa, John Pendlebury, Luke Robinson,
Tim Smith, David Stephenson, Trevor Stockey, Ged Stazicker, Scott Taylor, Logan Tomkins, Colin Whitfield, Peter Smethurst, Stephen Wild and Phil Ford.
Peter Smethurst, a great character and servant to both clubs.
A match to remember Friday 5th May 2017.
Wigan 16 Salford 31.
2017 was a real rollercoaster season for Salford and their supporters. A fourth place finish after the regular season and an excellent run to The Challenge cup semi final.
At the start of May The Red Devils were bang in form and turned up for this fixture full of confidence. Our last victory away at Wigan had come Twenty years early at Central Park 14-21 in the 1997 season.
Wigan’s new stadium hadn’t been a happy hunting ground for Salford over the last couple of decades with some real heavy defeats and hapless performances. This night in May 2017 was a night to be proud of. Ian Watson’s side had some real young talent that took their opportunity giving the loyal away following a night to remember
A blistering first half performance saw Salford take their chances really well. They were clinical and punished Wigan at crucial times. Tries came from Niall Evalds, Kris Welham and Ben Murdoch Masila.
Michael Dobson orchestrated his side superbly, organising and barking instructions out. His half back partner Robert Lui was also at his best. Unpredictable and very deceptive Lui was a constant attacking threat.
Leading 0-16 at half time The Red Devils had played a near perfect forty minutes.
Salford looked like cruising to victory with two quick-fire second-half tries from Evalds and Greg Johnson as the Champions looked shell shocked. Although Wigan scores from Tom Davies, Ryan Sutton and Lewis Tierney made the score respectable, the night belonged to the visitors.
Gareth O’Brien was taken out as he dropped a goal, the one-pointer counted and the former Warrington man also slotted over the penalty to seal the win.
The month of May turned into a special month with four victories following the Wigan win. Hull Kr were beaten in The Challenge Cup, Leigh we’re put to the sword in the Magic Weekend clash at Newcastle, fifty points were put on Catalans before a bank holiday masterclass away at Warrington!
Salford players reflect on that great night in 2017.
The teams that night were,
Wigan, Tierney, Davies, Forsyth, Burgess, Marshall, Woods, Powell, Nu’uausala,
Ganson, Sutton, Isa, Farrell, J. Tomkins.
Subs, Tautai, Gregson, Bretherton, Navarrette.
Salford, Evalds, Johnson, Welham, Jones, Bibby, Lui, Dobson, Tasi, L. Tomkins,
Walne, Lannon, Murdoch-Masila, Krasniqi.
Subs, Kopzack, Brining, Murray, O Brien.
Referee, Chris Campbell.
Both sides come into Friday’s match on winning form. Salford have won their last two matches at home to Wakefield and Castleford respectively.
Hosts Wigan have won their last three games and they’ve all been away from home.
Over the past week transfer speculation has been intensified, with Robert Lui a target for Leeds. As I write this nothing has yet been confirmed.
One player moving on next year is Jake Bibby. Jake will join his home town club Wigan for the 2020 season. He will be looking to impress in this fixture and has been among the tries recently with five in the last three matches.
Chris Hankinson has impressed recently for the Warriors with some big performances at centre. His goal kicking has caught the eye and last weekend at Huddersfield he scored a try and kicked seven goals. The rest of Wigan’s three quarter line is also impressive. With Joe Burgess, Oliver Gildart and Liam Marshall providing plenty of pace. Zak Hardacker at fullback is a world class player on his day and with a fierce pack that don’t take any prisoners Salford need to be at their best.
Joe Greenwood is a very dangerous player when he receives the ball out wide or close to the line and with star stand-off George Williams providing the openings and opportunities Wigan’s left edge will be a big threat.
Veteran Sean O’Loughlin has been back to form in recent weeks. The Warriors captain is now 36 with well over 400 appearances behind him since making his debut in 2002.
Salford coach Ian Watson will be looking for another big performance from his pack, particularly in defence. Prop Gil Dudson has been outstanding playing big minutes. Tyrone McCarthy has grasped his opportunity over the last couple of matches putting in some tremendous performances.
Captain Lee Mossop hobbled off injured after a big effort last Friday against Castleford and could be a doubt.
Jackson Hastings has been one of Salford’s most consistent performers this year, with an unbelievable work rate and attitude, his commitment to the cause is heart warming for the supporters to see which makes him a huge fans favourite.
An away fixture at Wigan is what I like to call the big stage. A real chance to showcase your skills and show the rugby league world what your all about.
Ian Watson and his side have continued to prove people wrong all season and victory in this match would be a huge boost to Salford’s ambitions for 2019.
A good start is imperative, the forward battle will be bruising and exciting to watch. This match has all the qualities to make it an absolute cracker.
Safe travels and enjoy the game everyone.