In what could be a season-defining match, Wigan Warriors and Warrington Wolves renew their rivalry at Magic Weekend on Saturday night.
Here is my current combined XIII between the two sides so far this season.
1. Morgan Escare – Wigan Warriors
This man was only meant to be full-back cover whilst Sam Tomkins recovered from his injury hell, but what a season he has had. Shaun Wane must now have thoughts of putting Sam Tomkins at six when he returns to make sure he kept the Frenchman in his team. His stats reflect this with eight clean-breaks, four tries and three assists; showing the sort of form he did in his first season in Catalans first team.
2. Tom Davies – Wigan Warriors
Davies has been fantastic for the Warriors during an extensive team injury period. To drive home how well he’s done, he’s made ten clean-breaks in comparison to six from England winger Ryan Hall, as well as making 1463 metres including 350 in one game!
3. Rhys Evans – Warrington Wolves
In a season where the Wolves have largely underperformed, Evans has been exceptional, especially in attack. His ability in open play means he’s a devastating broken-field runner, demonstrated by his nine clean-breaks and decent try total of four.
4. Ryan Atkins – Warrington Wolves
Many people have their opinions on Atkins, but to his own fans his powerful running and strength is appreciated. He’s been in great form this season, scoring six tries and making 1040 metres. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him included for England, if he manages to keep this form up.
5. Liam Marshall – Wigan Warriors
A star was born when Marshall scored four tries on debut for Wigan. It speaks volumes for the youngster if he can come into a side in those circumstances and perform better than the player he replaced. His flying finish against Saints recently shows exactly the type of talent he is – and it won’t be long until he’s chomping at the heels of established England wingers Ryan Hall, Jermaine McGillvary and team-mate Joe Burgess.
6. George Williams – Wigan Warriors
Wigan’s star playmaker recently signed a deal with Wigan to keep him from the clutches of the superpowers of the NRL. And you can see why he’s so sort after, with 16 assists and nine clean-breaks to date for the Cherry and Whites. He makes the Warriors tick in attack, no matter who’s out on the field, which is testament to his quality in getting the best out of those around him. He could well be this season’s Steve Prescott Man of Steel.
7. Kurt Gidley – Warrington Wolves
Frankly I was struggling to place a half-back from either team here, but Gidley has been consistent for the Wolves netting ten assists in a troubled campaign for Tony Smith’s men. The former Newcastle Knights captain has great leadership qualities and knows his way to the try line.
8. Chris Hill – Warrington Wolves
Arguably the best prop in Super League, Hill has led from the front in difficult times for the Wire. His introduction at different times in games by Tony Smith has often changed the game for his side. Examples of this can be found recently against Saints and Wakefield, where Hill visibly changed the tide of the game so the Wolves could edge clear. His stats reflect this, with 1096 metres and 263 tackles to his name in only eight Super League matches.
9. Sam Powell – Wigan Warriors
Powell has become a leader of the Warriors during his spell deputising for club legend Micky McIlorum. He has an awkward style about his play which sees him do more tackles than everyone else on the pitch, and strangely that’s his best form of attack – like Danny Houghton at Hull FC. He uses his stone-wall defence to set a platform for his side to build on. Making 404 tackles, Powell has become every bit of the defensive powerhouse Shaun Wane needs him to be.
10. Frank-Paul Nuuausala – Wigan Warriors
The human wrecking ball has been rather underwhelming until this season when he’s had to stand up and ultimately live up to his name – and smash up defences. He’s managing to assert himself on opposing defences and make the yardage so that the likes of Williams and Marshall can profit. In doing so, FPN has amassed over one thousand metres and 255 tackles.
11. Liam Farrell – Wigan Warriors
The Ginger Pearl has been in dependable form for Shaun Wane in 2017, steadying the ship when things got a bit chaotic in late April early May, when the Warriors struggled to pick up wins. In defence, he’s hit up almost 300 tackles and in attack he’s gained almost 1,500 yards, as well as four clean-breaks.
12. Joe Westerman – Warrington Wolves
Westerman was the man every Warrington fan applauded for his efforts during their dark spell of seven straight defeats. His determination to turn the Wolves fortunes around never diminished and he always gave everything he had, even when it was obvious he and his team-mates weren’t going to win. That effort translated into 381 tackles and over 750 metres for a side that’s often struggled to keep hold of the ball.
13. Sean O’Loughlin – Wigan Warriors
The ultimate professional. Sean O’Loughlin makes all the difference when on the field for the Warriors. He marshals his troops to produce a performance fitting of the famous club. Unfortunately injuries have always hampered him, but it’s still clear to see why ‘Lockers’ is so important to Wigan and all they do well, as he’s so difficult to put down and often used in different roles, highlighting his versatility.