You’re probably expecting me to go into a big rant about the Earl of Derby and why Wigan is one of only two events that deserves that title. It is true that the Earl of Derby may have said this, it is also true that Knowsley Hall, the ancestral home of the Stanley family – Earls of Derby – is situated in the borough of Knowsley, immediately adjacent to St. Helens, which gives that argument a lot of weight. However, I’m as tired of the same old excuse as you are, and words can change meaning, so let’s move on.
In Hull, as stated in a previous article, you can’t hide from your opponent after the event, they are in your face and at your work and in your home, but there seems to be an assumption that because St. Helens and Wigan are two separate towns, that we don’t work together, we don’t live together, we won’t see each other till the next game… That is not at all true. Notably, in Wigan we are lucky to have two outstanding top level sporting clubs, unfortunately some do not see it as I do, in fact only small percentages of people will follow both sides and most Wigan Rugby fans (if not already affiliated with another football side) will follow Bolton, and Wigan Athletic fans will follow… you guessed it… St. Helens. Yes, people will believe that it is just petty fighting between a town and that may be the case but it doesn’t help stop intensifying the Derby. Geographically, the closer you move to Billinge the more split family loyalties you’ll see, and despite being a town apart (a massive one yard to nine miles, depending where you live in either town) the workplace is still littered with fans from either club, given the commute time between the two is less than twenty minutes, on a bad day.
I will admit that I have made all these points despite not really caring about any of them because a Derby isn’t made up of the hate or the stigma – that is only what intensifies it – it’s made up of a game between two teams and my main aim here is to reveal the biggest Derby in rugby league, so let’s do it… Let’s talk about RUGBY LEAGUE.
A Derby in modern terms, as previously stated, is a sports match between two rivals from the same town, city or region; Firstly, let me clarify any confusion from the previous article, Wigan vs Warrington is not a Derby, the main reason being that the fans nor the players consider it to be a real rivalry like that of St. Helens, meaning it isn’t a Derby. Some may see it as the biggest game of the year, but from a Wigan fans point of view, Warrington is just another game (a big one indeed, but another nonetheless, similar to Leeds or Castleford). So being that both the Good Friday Derby and the Hull Derby meet the criteria, how do we decide the biggest?
To be described as the biggest in the dictionary (amongst other definitions) you have to be the most popular or successful. Now not to discredit the Hull Derby, which is always quite the spectacle and loved by fans and neutrals alike, it beats the Good Friday Derby to neither of these titles. Popularity-wise, the Good Friday Derby has seen higher attendances in each of the last five Easter weekends that have seen both fixtures take place, the Hull Derby also coming second in TV viewing figures – including the 2013 season where the Hull Derby was given the prime time afternoon TV slot. In terms of success, the success of higher audiences does apply, but let’s just for fun take into account the success of the individual teams involved. St. Helens in the previous ten seasons have won five pieces of silverware, their local rivals Wigan have won nine in that time. Hull FC and KR combined have won two, I will let Hull fans of either colour have their own discussions about that stat.
For me the passion is the same, I wouldn’t dare say I care MORE about beating St. Helens than a Hull fan does about beating KR, realistically we probably feel equally as passionate and we’ll both probably cop the same amount of stick if the unthinkable happens this weekend but which DERBY is the BIGGEST? As much as it may not be liked, the Derby is about the 80 minutes – the passion only helps raise the games profile – which means historically and to this day the Good Friday Derby between Wigan and St. Helens remains on top.