5 Things We Learned #87

The finest of farewells

Shaun Wane’s fulltime interview spoke a thousand words. He could barely get a sentence out, such was the emotion and pride after coaching his Wigan side for the final time. 13 of the Cherry and Whites’ 17-man squad that played on Saturday were given their Wigan debuts by Wane, while three of the four others came through the system when he worked in the academy. Wane has always been an advocate of clubs sourcing their own talent, so Saturday was a well-deserved reward for all the players he’s brought through over the years.

It was also a fitting farewell for three of the Warriors’ key players. Sam Tomkins, John Bateman and Ryan Sutton all played big roles on Saturday, but will be jetting off to pastures new in 2019. Tomkins joins another champion side in Catalans, while Bateman and Sutton will look to make their mark in the NRL with Canberra. The latter two, in particular, will be interesting to follow as neither has yet to reach their full potential.

 

The Man-fredi of the moment

The best story of the Grand Final was undoubtedly that of Dominic Manfredi. His return to action after over two years out injured has been well documented and in just his fifth game back, the 25-year-old was one of his side’s most crucial players at Old Trafford.

His two tries were superbly finished, while his try-saving tackle on Tom Lineham in the second half showed just how desperate he was to make sure all the hard work he put in to comeback wasn’t for nothing. In reality, the cut to the face he picked up in the process probably just felt like a slight graze. He faces a tough task in 2019 to retain his place in the squad, with Joe Burgess, Liam Marshall and Tom Davies all vying for places. If he shows even half of the desire and determination shown in the past 24 months, though, he’ll be first choice.

 

Maybe next year?

And so Warrington’s search for a Super League title goes on. In all fairness, this was probably the closest they’ve come to winning one. It took until the 78th minute for Wigan to wrap the game up and the Wolves had a fair few opportunities before then that could have swayed the game in their favour.

Stefan Ratchford was a particular threat and almost made an impact. His second half break could’ve ignited a fightback while he was in prime position when Ben Murdoch-Masila broke through moments later, with the second rower instead opting to find an unaware Tyrone Roberts on his inside. On the positive side, Steve Price has certainly turned the Wolves into a game-winning side. The influence of Blake Austin should be massive in 2019, while there’s sure to be more signings that give them an even better chance of a trophy next season.

 

Myler back in the fold

It’s safe to say Richie Myler was one of the last players I expected to receive an England call-up. It’s been six years since his last involvement and although we’re in the midst of a halfback crisis, there are others that could have been better options.

Ryan Hampshire would have been my pick. The Wakefield halfback was on fire towards the back end of the season and is more than deserving of a shot at international rugby. Joe Mellor would also have been a worthy candidate, as would Hampshire’s teammate Kyle Wood. What Myler brings to the squad is experience which we already have, so somebody with flare and unpredictability would have been a better choice.

 

Double joy for Sammut

Not a week had passed since Jarrod Sammut had helped London to Super League, and the livewire scrum-half had won another make-or-break game. While his Broncos teammates were still revelling in promotion celebrations, Sammut was jetting off to Sydney to play his part in the Emerging Nations World Championship for Malta, his chosen international side.

The competition has been a huge success and has demonstrated just how far some of the emerging RL countries have come. Sammut eventually led his Malta Knights to victory over Niue in the final, but the likes of Greece, Turkey and Hungary also stood out. If nothing else, the tournament shows that the sport is growing. You never know, it might not even be long until we have a 20-30 team World Cup.

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