History awaits Warriors - Wane
Wigan Warriors coach Shaun Wane will have his players motivated by the chance to make history in Saturday morning’s World Club Challenge at the Sydney Football Stadium.
The scoreline stands at 8-6 to the Super League champions over their NRL counterparts since the annual challenge became a regular fixture on the calendar in 2000.
But St Helens, Wigan, Leeds Rhinos and Bradford Bulls have all made good use of home advantage in that time to become world champions and the Warriors will now bid to become the first Super League club to achieve the feat in Australia.
“When I got offered the choice, I jumped at the chance of travelling to Australia and the chance to make history,” Wane said.
Wigan, who are aiming to become the first team to lift the title four times, won it in Australia before the advent of Super League and a win over Sydney Roosters on Saturday would not be as big a shock as their 20-14 triumph over Brisbane Broncos at Lang Park in 1994.
The Broncos were at the height of their powers 20 years ago and overwhelming favourites against an injury-hit Wigan team coming off the back of an arduous season but tries from Jason Robinson, Denis Betts and Barrie-Jon Mather silenced the 54,220-strong partisan crowd.
Wane will use that occasion to motivate his players in his pre-match speech and will also draw on his own experiences, having been man of the match in Wigan’s famous, try-less, win over Manly Sea Eagles at Central Park in 1987.
“I’ve spoken to the players already about that,” Wane said. “The one game that always gets mentioned to me is that game.
“Out of all the cups we won in the 1980s and 1990s, the one in ‘87 against Manly is the game everybody talks about.
“It’s remembered in Wigan and I want these players to understand that in 10 or 20 years’ time when they’ve finished playing, this game will be a really important one.”
With home advantage and all but two members of their Grand Final-winning team intact, Trent Robinson’s Roosters are clear favourites to add to their 2003 triumph over St Helens at Bolton’s Reebok Stadium.
The Sydney outfit also have inside knowledge of their opponents, courtesy of England coach Steve McNamara, who joined the Roosters as Robinson’s assistant after the World Cup.
Robinson, who spent two years in Super League as coach of Catalan Dragons before returning to the NRL, said: “Mac has seen more of Wigan than anyone of us, having spent time up there.
“I know how they play as well. We’ve spent a little bit more time than normal preparing for Wigan because of the importance of the game. I think we’re well prepared.”
That preparation included training sessions with Warrington Wolves, whose Australian coach Tony Smith was happy to provide an insight into the Super League champions during his club’s pre-season camp in Sydney.
That irked Wane, who believes the former England head coach demonstrated disloyalty.
“Tony made his choice,” Wane said. “It’s not the choice I would have made.
“To me it’s Super League versus the NRL but now it’s Super League versus the NRL and Super League.
“It seems a bit crazy to me but I’m happy just preparing my team and getting on with it.”
Well over 1,000 Wigan fans have travelled to Sydney, no doubt hoping injury-dogged skipper Sean O’Loughlin will be fit enough to lead the team having missed both the Super League opener and the warm-up game in Hamilton with a hamstring problem.
England winger Josh Charnley, who also sat out the game against Huddersfield Giants, will return for what will be his 100th appearance for the club. Probable teams:
Sydney Roosters: A Minichiello (capt); D Tupou, M Jennings, M Aubusson, S Kenny-Dowall; J Maloney, M Pearce; J Waerea-Hargreaves, J Friend, S Moa, B Cordner, S B Williams, F-P Nuuausala.
Replacements: D Mortimer, A Guerra, D Napa, R Casty.
Wigan: M Bowen; J Charnley, D Goulding, D Sarginson, J Burgess; B Green, M Smith; S Taylor, M McIlorum, G Dudson, L Farrell, T Clubb, S O'Loughlin (capt).
Replacements: E Pettybourne, J Bateman, D Crosby, B Flower.
Referees: B Cummins, G Sutton (both Australia).