Well, all the major honours are now out of the way for another year, fans are starting to get ready and excited for next season as the players return for another gruelling off-season. The dust is starting to settle now over what was a disappointing Four Nations tournament for England. When we announced Wayne Bennett as head coach I was particularly excited but one thing that didn’t sit quite right with me is that we hired an Aussie when we have very competent English candidates. When Steve McNamara left his role last year for me there was only one man to lead the country forward – Shaun Wane.
I am not a Wigan supporter and during Super League I’m not the biggest fan of their head coach but one thing you can’t deny is, he’s good! Our national team is a bit too lenient, I was going to say soft but I think that’s a bit disrespectful to the players that play the game so we’ll go with lenient. When we announced Bennett, I thought that would change our approach and attitude but we saw more of the same in the 2016 Four Nations and I believe the performances under him have taken us backwards. I want to give all coaches time to get their philosophies in place, but 2017 is a World Cup year and it’s down under! We need some true British bulldog spirit and aggression to go to the southern hemisphere. I think we should make the change now, we had a terrible Four Nations campaign with pretty much no highlight, so why should we let this “super coach” take us to Australia, New Zealand and PNG next year to do more of the same and get embarrassed?
Wigan this season won the Super league for the second time under Shaun Wane and arguably its more of an achievement than just the trophy. As was well documented throughout the season, especially by our Sky Sports pundit panel, the Warriors had a constant long injury list. Wane was forced into making some fringe or youth players first team starters or squad members, yet he still guided the cherry and white to the Challenge Cup semi-final, second place in the Super League table and then eventually onto Grand Final success at Old Trafford. Before this season, I wanted Shaun Wane in the England hot seat, this campaign has only intensified my belief that he’s the man for the job. He knows how to get the best out of the players and more!
No-one likes playing Wigan, they have the reputation around them that they like to bully the opposition, you only have to speak to fans to see that’s the general consensus. So, we have a club side not afraid of any opponent and stopping them at any costs, yet our national team seem to have no fight in them. Wane backs his players at all times and defends them when he gets questioned about their actions. This would immediately give you the confidence to go out and do anything you can to get the win, at all costs. A statement our national team hasn’t had for the best part of ten years, maybe more. I am sick of watching England get dominated by the Aussies and Kiwis, it’s time to change that and get back to mixing it with them properly.
My thoughts on Wane for the national job originally started in 2014, when Wigan went down under to face Sydney Roosters in the World Club Challenge. Sky did a programme called ‘Warriors down under’ following the Warriors around Sydney. In the documentary, you see Wane in the changing room openly telling his players to put their bodies on the line and get stuck in. Go out and hurt them, don’t respect them, hit them. It was the first time I think an English coach has said that when facing the Aussies for a very long time, if he is instructing his players to do that at club level in Sydney, imagine what he would be like with the national side down under next year. Sending our boys out against the Kangaroos to make every tackle count, hit them hard in the collision and have no respect is the way we can really let them know we are there – I would back our boys 100% with Wane in that situation.
His post-match interviews show the kind of coach he is too, he doesn’t mind showing his frustration or anger even after a win. My team beat them a couple of times this season and I remember after one game we fully dominated Wigan and put them to the sword, yet afterwards Wane said we weren’t that good, Wigan beat themselves in a lot of areas. I was fully disillusioned, had we watched the same game? Wigan were never in the game and yet we weren’t very good!? That said it just shows he doesn’t care who the opposition is, it’s all about his team and what they do. Wouldn’t that be a great philosophy for the national team?
Under Wane I genuinely believe the national team can win major honours, I would back us to win the World Cup under him. Get Wane in charge now and let him turn our team into a gritty aggressive powerhouse. It’s time to act now. We are in a results based business and the four games we have played over the past couple of months haven’t been good enough for English Rugby league. It’s time to show the Aussies and Kiwis we aren’t just there to take part!