13 September 2017
You guys know the score with these blogs by now. They are light-hearted insights. Not strategic, political or controversial. Just a bit of fun. I intended to do them daily but out of respect for Shaun and his brother Tony I didn’t think it was right for me to be posting every day so have collated them into a seven-day blog. It’s quite lengthy but hopefully you enjoy my ramblings. Pour yourself a drink and strap in, we’re going on a journey!
Greetings from Manila in the Philippines!
This game has taken me to many places but I never thought that I would be writing a blog tuning in to our Academy Grand Final from such a location.
I am visiting Australia for the last time until we come back in February. We still have a fair bit to do so this week has a hectic but exciting schedule.
The journey to Australia was obviously made a lot easier by our impressive win against Saints. Should we have lost, spending 24 hours on a plane would have been a real tough carry (I will talk about tough carries a little later on!).
The win against Saints was one of the most impressive in recent years. Coming back six days after such a demoralising Cup Final was always going to be to hard but against our arch-rivals who would have sensed blood, away from home, was as tough as it gets. Nevertheless, the way we started and fought for each other and then sustained our effort was impressive.
There are two points I would like to make here. Firstly, when we look from a recruitment point of view, we of course look for all the obvious things, talent, fitness, strength, speed etc. There is one element that you can’t quantify but it is massively important, as highlighted in this game, competitiveness. This is the elusive ingredient that differentiates good players from great players. It is such a hard one to determine but if ever there was a measure, this game showed it. Our players, despite hurting deeply, relied on their instincts to pull off a remarkable win.
Secondly, these players couldn’t have dug so deep without the leadership of the Head Coach. No man would have been hurting as much as SW after the Cup Final. I know he would rather have stayed at home on Monday morning with his family and felt sorry for himself. Instead, he went into work and dragged everybody off the floor and explained the challenge in front of us. Let’s get real, Wigan is such a demanding place. The Rugby League team is so important and when something doesn’t go to plan, somebody needs to get the blame. Shaun won’t mind me saying that it is usually his face that is the target. That is unfair because my face, and Mr Lenagan’s should also be there as leaders of our Club. However, the strength of his character deflects this and concentrates on what he can control. Friday showed that his players undoubtedly have his back.
Ok back to Manila. So I am tuning in to watch our Academy Grand Final and I can see that it is a wet affair. Grand Finals are won with unselfish acts. Guys who put their hand up to take the ‘tough carry’. This is an effort when you look around and you see your teammates suffering yet a job needs to be done. The guy who stands up and says ‘I want the ball’ is the guy who is prepared to take the ‘tough carry’. I was dealt my own ‘tough carry’ over dinner in the hotel whilst watching the game. I was served a set meal with compliments of the airline. It was shrimp soup - or should I say, warm shrimp soup. I have never smelled or tasted anything as vile. Just typing this almost made me vomit on my iPad. Now this is not the same as carrying the ball in wet conditions in a Cup Final but believe me, this was a culinary tough carry.
Regarding the game. I am so proud of our Academy and the fact that they cruised to another Championship. Talent identification is such a hot topic in the world of sport. It requires a good eye initially to find the raw talent and then a well-executed plan to turn that potential player into a ‘proper’ player. We at Wigan have developed a system that is revered the world over. It is a system that relies on expertise, commitment, volunteers and a deep understanding of the Wigan philosophy. As I sat in Manila recovering from my warm seafood experience, I began to receive text messages from coaches, players, parents and volunteers thanking me for delivering on our promises. My guts may have been all over the place but my sense of pride was certainly intact.
I arrive in Sydney around 10pm. Quick check-in at the hotel and then next door to the Coogee Pavilion for a glass of my favourite beer, 150 lashes. Only one though as I have an early start interviewing a couple of former Wigan favourites, none other than Pat Richards and Mark Riddell.
It was great seeing them both again. They both looked in great condition. You could see that they were happy talking about their time at Wigan. There is something that’s quite unique about Rugby League, you might not see somebody for years and then after being in the same room with them for a few minutes it seems as though you have never been apart. The stories were flowing and the mood was high. Both guys seemed to be in a good place in their lives. Paddy working in construction and doing a bit of coaching on the side with South Sydney and Piggy working in the media calling NRL games at the weekend. I can’t wait to get these guys involved in our NSW projects. I have a night planned where we will unveil our greatest Wigan Australian XIII and present them with their heritage jersey. It will be an occasion not to be missed. I hope to finalise this event during this trip.
Later in the afternoon, I made the visit down to Kiama. This is the region where Hull will be based. Wollongong will be coloured in cherry and white and the Kiami region, black and white. Before handing over a facility to Hull without even seeing it, it was important for myself that I saw what Hull were getting before I endorsed it to them. The Sebel is a beautiful hotel overlooking a little bay full of dolphins… I can just see Lee Radford in his robe out there in the morning try to catching a glimpse of them! The facility has everything you would expect for a touring team. In the past the Melbourne Storm has used it and it will probably be a spot for the Origin team next year. My note that I sent to Hull was short and sweet. ‘This facility will provide you with everything that you need to prepare for a Super League match’ - nothing Judith Chalmers about my assessment.
After touring a number of facilities, I had worked up a thirst so I was taken to the pub of NRL legend Mick Cronin. Mick played in the legendary Parramatta team of the 80s alongside Eric Grothe, Brett Kenny, Peter Sterling and zip zip Ella. Mick is an institution around these parts. He is a very unassuming man considering he has four NRL Championships. The pub has been in his family for over 120 years and he literally had a million stories to share.
He took me into his games room to show me his collection of Australian memorabilia, it was a fascinating insight. We discussed a certain Great Britain touring photo with Ashton, Boston, McTigue and Karalius. He said that Karalius taught him more in one minute than any coach has ever taught him. He said “the key to Rugby League is when you’re defending is to put your men where theirs are, when you have the ball, put the ball where they are not” - it’s not rocket science is it?!
It was a really cool couple of hours spent with a very proud man who just loved talking about Rugby League. He took me to his local Rugby Club, Gerringong, which is appropriately called the Mick Cronin Oval. I love the feel of an old Rugby Club. Pictures on the wall that are never straight, the unmistakable smell of the changing rooms and the beaming pride of the volunteers who look after the Clubhouse. Gerringong Rugby Club unearthed the Simms brothers, Ashton, Tariq and Korbin all proudly displayed in wonky frames.
There are some days in your life when you lie in bed at the end of the night and look at the ceiling and think WOW, what a day! Wednesday in Wollongong was one of those.
I guess it started around 4am when I couldn’t sleep as I thought the roof of my hotel was going to get blown off (don’t worry, I’m assured the weather is much better in February!). The balcony chairs actually went over the side but the rooftop stayed on. Once I was awake though, there was no getting back to sleep so I ‘facetimed’ my kids. They couldn’t understand why it was dark and I was in bed. Explaining it at that time in the morning was a challenge so I cut it short. Dodgy connection…
Turns out the bad weather conditions were a real blessing in disguise. This morning I was due to jump out of a plane. Yes, that’s right, a plane. Not my idea and not a particularly great one I may add but somebody decided that it would be really good to showcase the region and provide great publicity. I wasn’t really thrilled about it but I went along with the plan. The previous night I called home to check-in and told my wife, Rachel, what I was doing. She told me that she didn’t want me to do it. Now, if I desperately wanted to do it, this could have been a problem but to be honest I could take or leave it.
I went down and discussed it with Dan (Burton) and Stewart (Frodsham) who are with me out here from Wigan. They were not much use. Basically, their answer was ‘tough one’ and ‘good luck with that’. I fully understood Rachel and I don’t think I would like watching somebody I loved throwing themselves out of a plane but I also realised that you don’t get many opportunities to do such a thing. Anyway, an interrupted night with the wind solved my dilemma as the skydive place closed down for the day. My initial reaction was, ‘praise the Lord!’. A tiny piece of me was gutted (only very tiny, maybe malteser size).
Instead of having a couple of pieces of fruit to settle my stomach in preparation for the jump I got stuck in to a full monty! The change of plan proved fruitful in another way; instead of flying, I visited the biggest Buddhist Temple in the Southern Hemisphere, Nan Tien Temple. What an incredible experience! It was a guided visit that probably only lasted 45 minutes but a what an insightful one.
A young Chinese lady took me around the various temples and explained the workings and beliefs of Buddhism. It was a very enlightening experience that made me feel really calm. At the end she walked me to the top of the hill and let me ring the bell three times. The Nan Tien Gratitude Bell acknowledged the work that our parents and ancestors have done for us. I arranged to bring the team back here in February to do some Tai Chi and have some meditation and calligraphy classes. This will be a new experience for our boys and I am sure that they will embrace the culture.
My hectic day then took me across to a local restaurant called Steamers. In there we had lunch with some influential movers in the business sector to discuss the potential synergies between Wigan, the North of England and the Wollongong region. Economic development has been mentioned lots in our releases regarding the trip but it’s only when you really sit down and discuss the possibilities with people that things become clear. It is very early days but the connection made with Jonathan Boyers at KPMG in Manchester and Warwick Shanks at the Wollongong branch of KPMG looks very fruitful.
At the end of lunch, the music in the restaurant was very appropriate. It was the classic song, ‘Take it easy’ by The Eagles. Appropriate, because I got told to change into a leather jacket and board a trike Harley Davidson motorcycle as I was getting shown the new coastal road and Sea Cliff bridge. I went outside to see this beautiful bright red bike, complete with Wigan flat, purring like a kitten ready to shred the Tarmac on an incredible trip.
It was literary one of the best experiences of my life. The bike was clinging to these stunning, meandering cliff roads with just an ocean drop to my right. I loved every minute of it but I soon got sad and felt guilty if I am honest. I know that I am out here working hard and trying to create a vision to show to Wigan and Hull fans what is on offer in this region but I could not stop thinking about Waney who was at his brother’s bedside caring for him. I know that he will tell me that life goes on but I just didn’t feel comfortable knowing that I was doing something that he would love. I promise to make the journey with him when I return and raise a glass of red to Tony at the end.
My biker mate Barry then dropped me off at Symbio National Park where I had a date with a cuddly little thing called Imogen. Imogen was a beautiful, 3-year-old Koala bear who let me tickle her tummy for ages. She was just using me for the leaves that I was feeding her! It was another wonderful experience. The Koala bear is now becoming under threat with just 80,000 now remaining. I love people who are good and passionate at their job. Kevin who was the zookeeper spoke with such love for Imogen and the animals he protected. I then went and fed some emus - didn’t trust them.
I then went into a field with around 30 kangaroos and they all jumped on top of me as I distributed some treats. It was a thrilling experience. As I exited, I briefly called in to see an angry little Tasmanian Devil who are another species under threat. Again, this was another guy who I didn’t trust. He looked at me as though he was up to something.
My next stop - Wollongong town centre. Part of this trip is gathering content. So for the next five months until we arrive, we will be letting people learn more about this great place. Myself and Stewart, our Head of Production, went around town to interview some of the locals about their businesses and asked what the impact would be of having Wigan and Hull in town. I went into a range of places (I also sampled their produce), a whiskey bar called Howlin Wolf, a wine bar called The Throsby, a healthy burger joint called Grill’d that has the most amazingly passionate owner and also for the Hull fans, I went in a great bar aptly named Humber.
There really is something for everybody in Wollongong. My last stop of the night was at a vodka bar called Red Square. Red Square is owned by former Illawarra Steelers Hooker, Michael Bolt. He has the NRL record for the number of consecutive games played for a forward (a tough old bugger!). I spent a good half hour talking shop with him (he made me try a vegemite vodka- I don’t actually see the point in this drink!) and then he was telling me he played alongside Andy Gregory and Steve Hampson when they played for the Steelers thirty years ago. I then got Hampo on the phone. Everything that I love about Rugby League was highlighted. These two blokes had not spoken for 30 years yet after 4 minutes on the phone, it was as though they had never been apart!
Michael’s face was just beaming after the call knowing he had just reconnected with a teammate. In that 4 minute conversation, a new event was added to our itinerary for February with Michael arranging an Illawarra reunion to watch the Super Bowl together. Super League Super Bowl, more details to follow soon.
Just as I think it’s time for bed, I realise that England is still awake and I have a conference call with one of our main partners. I was literally exhausted but running on pure adrenaline. I switch the TV on and see that Madge has been sacked at Souths. That was a deflating discovery. I send him a text and say that I am around if he needs me. We book breakfast in for Saturday.
Thursday, in comparison to Wednesday was relatively tame. I didn’t leave our hotel as we booked a meeting room and people came to visit us throughout the course of the day. There is much to consider for this fixture. It is not just a case of pulling up the socks and playing a game of Rugby League. Wigan, in essence are the promoters of these games. This means that we have to do everything as we would do in Wigan. The second game, the Double Header, has a bit more flexibility with it. We can be more creative about how we do things. The game in Wollongong however at WIN Stadium needs to look and feel like any other Betfred Super League fixture. This means that it is a fair logistical operation.
For example, if you consider teams walking out and the Wigan, Hull and Super League flags, the post pads, the man of the match sponsor board, the balls etc. There have been many head scratching meetings but what an opportunity! The game aside, there are other developmental opportunities. Through discussions with various business leaders, media outlets and the University of Wollongong, it was very clear that both Wollongong and Wigan in Northern England are faced with the same challenges but also the same opportunities.
Never before have words like synergies, devolution & economic development, being used with sport and in particular Rugby League as the driver and to be at the forefront of research programmes, trade missions and exchange programmes. The possibilities are endless. We look forward to exploring that further.
We had a great meeting with the Illawarra Mercury which is the local newspaper out here. They have been very supportive of the concept right from the start. An objective of ours (and Hull) is to leave a footprint in the region. We want loads of kids playing Rugby League and turning them into Super League fans. Now, people may say, why are you doing it there and not in Wigan? The fact is that on February the 8th, two days before the Super League game at WIN Stadium, we will hold a massive Rugby League carnival across the five regions of Wollongong, with the support of the NRL, St George Illawarra and Hull. Simultaneously, on the other side of the world in Wigan, our Community team and Junior players will take to the town to do the same thing. I will speak to the guys at Hull about doing the same thing. I don’t know if there is any kind of record, but what we know for certain is that on that particular day, there is going to be lots of kids running around with a Rugby League ball in their hands. That can’t be such a bad thing can it?
Today was a spectacular day.
On the halfway line at WIN Stadium an official launch took place to announce our game. 120 influential business people came together to welcome us to the region. It was an incredible sight. The dinner started with a welcome by Destination Wollongong General Manager, Mark Sleigh who has been pivotal in pulling all of this together. Then the Lord Mayor welcomed us before handing over to me for my keynote speech. (No pressure Rads!)
I am getting quite used to speaking in front of people and it doesn’t really phase me. I have read lots of books about public speaking. Obviously content is important but the most important factor of all that you want people to see from a public speaker is passion. If you don’t believe what you are preaching then the people listening won’t believe it either. Luckily, Wigan Rugby League Club is my passion so I don’t have to act much, if at all. I had to follow some very accomplished speakers. So I declared when I got on stage that I was going to leave my speech in my pocket, and speak openly, from the heart and see what happens. This wasn’t planned. So I got on stage, released the microphone from its holder and then walked around like I was on stage on the London Palladium. I was actually pretty relaxed and I think people enjoyed my approach and my honesty. There were lots of things that I should have said but my spontaneous approach meant I forgot most of it. I started with the story below and then took people on a little journey.
I have a picture at home of me on Christmas Day, from about 1983. In one hand I am holding a Mitre Multiplex rugby ball, in the other hand is a Wigan Rugby League jersey with the other side of it tucked under my chin. On my head is a Wigan Rugby League bobble hat. This picture is pretty symbolic. All I wanted to do when growing up was support Wigan. The Club and its players meant the world to me, they still do. To now find myself at the other side of the world, being made to feel so welcome and unveiling such an historic event in our Club’s illustrious history is quite overwhelming for me. Yes I went on to play a few games but to now be a Director and to be trusted to make big decisions and represent Wigan Rugby League Club on the biggest stage is a responsibility that I take very seriously. After the dinner, there was a Q&A with myself, Harvey Howard who runs a bee sanctuary out here (you can’t make it up, can you?!) and John Dorahy who is a local member of parliament and the former Wigan Coach who gave me my debut. It was a remarkable afternoon really, good people talking all about Rugby League.
I get up at 5am to watch our game against Hull. With all the results from the last few weeks, the game is of massive importance. For some reason, I couldn’t get it on the TV over here in my hotel, so I needed to be creative. I ‘facetime’ my son Samuel, and get him to stand in front of our TV at home with his iPad. It was actually a great watch and I also got to spend time with my boy (although he was holding it a bit shakily at times!) I spoke to Shaun after the game and I was in agreement with his assessment. It wasn’t a classic win but a gutsy one and in the context of our season, one of the most important ones.
We then got a lift up from Wollongong to Sydney with Greg Sleigh who is the General Manager of ANZ and another key player in pulling this project together. It’s about a 90-minute journey but it allowed me to see NSW from a different perspective. My first stop was a coffee with Madge. It’s always difficult to know what to say in these situations. I know just how hard Madge works and I know he is an incredibly proud man. To be relieved of your duties is tough but inevitable for every professional sports coach at some point.
I won’t go into the details of our conversation but it was great to just chat. In fact I just listened. I like the fact that Madge confided in me and I respect wholeheartedly the friendship that he has afforded me. He will be back stronger than ever. He looked very fit. He still gets up every day at 5am to train. I used to train with him all the time at Wigan. One day, he asked if I wanted to do some sparing with the gloves. I thought, let’s give it ago. I am not a boxer so it was just moving a round and flicking the wrist. Next minute, he is into my ribs - It was on!! A bloke with red hair defends his honour. I will never forget how that escalated so quickly. Great times.
The afternoon saw me tick another one off the bucket list. I have never been to an AFL game before but I was given some tickets to watch the Sydney Swans play the Essendon Bombers at the Sydney Cricket Ground thanks to KPMG. There were over 60,000 watching this game and I loved it. It was a true spectacle on and off the field. On the TV you don’t appreciate what happens off the ball. They actually started being aggressive with each other before kick off! This, as I learned, was an occurrence that happens every game. It’s a way of showing your opponent that you are ready for battle. Just putting a marker down that he is in for a hard day. It then continues for the full game. Every opportunity to drop the shoulder onto someone was accepted. I can see myself getting into that sport. I felt as though I had not just watched a game but I had experienced it. There is a difference. My eyes were not just on the players, I was watching every element of the experience. There are certainly things that I have picked up that can be incorporated at Wigan.
What do people want from a sporting experience? Most will say they want to be entertained. That has to be true. But I actually think it’s a little bit deeper. There is a line in one of my favourite songs by Billy Joel, the Piano man.
‘It’s a pretty good crowd for a Saturday, and the manager gives me a smile, cause he knows that it’s me they’ve been coming to see, to forget about life for a while.’
People’s love and fanatical support for their team is in some part their escape from the challenges of life. We have a responsibility to make sure that place of solitude is a happy place. We have some work to do on this area but we are determined to get it right.
On Sunday, I was guest of honour at the lllawarra Rugby League Finals day at WIN Stadium so I went to the legendary Illawarra Leagues Club to sort out some of the details. It was a nice afternoon with fellas who are passionate about the greatest game of all. A guy who is Mr Illawarra is Bobby Millward, the father of Ian. What a character this guy is! He told me a simply fantastic story regarding somebody that we know extremely well at Wigan, Trent Barrett.
Outside of WIN Stadium is a bronze stature symbolising 100 years of Illawarra Rugby League. It’s a beautiful piece of work in which the ageing rugby player is passing the ball to the junior player - a ceremonial passing of the baton. It’s a really powerful message. When Bobby met the sculptor, Lis Johnson, she was under the impression that rugby players were all big chunky guys. So when Bobby went to check on her progress, he commented on how the game was played by athletes and these initial characters were not true representations of the of the Warriors that play our game. So Bobby got Trent on the phone who heads straight down to the foundry. When he gets there, Bobby tells him to strip to his jocks to give the sculptor an idea of the type of ‘rig’ she should be portraying. The story goes, that she was pretty gobsmacked and she got on the phone to invite her girlfriends to enjoy the experience of sculpting Trent. That’s a great story to say that you were the centre of. It’s a must have photo opportunity when Wigan fans hit WIN Stadium in February.
I also caught up with David Furner today for a beer, one of the real champion blokes who I was lucky enough to play with at Wigan. It is funny how you have these special bonds with certain players. Ever since he left Wigan we have remained in touch and I always make time to see him when I am in town. It’s always a good day when you’re sat at the end of a bar, sipping on a bourbon with Furnsie. Whilst at Furnsie’s local, a bloke from England comes over from England to say hi. He was only the bass player from Gerry and the Pacemakers, Les Chadwick. Another twist on my incredible Aussie adventure!
Rugby League has taken me to some great places. It has introduced me to some wonderful colourful characters. It has allowed me to achieve all my goals and for that I am truly grateful. On one hand I am incredibly excited by the opportunity of coming to NSW to showcase Wigan Rugby League and Super League, but on the other hand I understand that our sport has some challenges.
I understand that the decision to bring a game out here has angered some. I understand that we are faced with falling crowds, threats from other sports and an uncertainty in competition structure. There are big debates taking place about preferred player pathways. I could talk about things that are wrong with our sport but I am not going to. I am going to look at the positives.
I have just spent a week away from home talking to people who want to talk to me about Wigan, about Rugby League. I have played Rugby with kids who all have that dream to become the next Cameron Smith or Johnathan Thurston. The dream is still alive for many. We have a responsibility to keep it that way. Whilst over here, I was on the front cover of the local newspaper, the Illawarra Mercury, I was also on the back page and I was also in the middle. There was a picture of me (in chinos), on a field with a young 9-year-old kid called Mitch. We were simply passing and catching a rugby ball and talking about players. Mitch probably went home that day buzzing because of the day he had experienced. The truth is, he probably didn’t enjoy this as much as me. I loved it. I have no doubt that he went home inspired. I certainly did.
All my life I have been told about Rugby League. What’s right, what’s wrong, what to do, what not to do. Now is my time to challenge this. If we are serious about creating opportunities for our kids then we need to stand up and embrace the issues that the game faces. I see how hard people work behind the scenes to try and make things work. This is often very difficult when individual agendas are put before the greater good. As a game we must come together like never before. As a Club, we also must challenge ourselves. We must listen to our fans, partners, players, young and old and rise to the changing landscape. We are working hard on a new Club strategy that will guide us through this period. All areas of our operation will be reviewed as we build on our illustrious past to inspire our future.
So what about NSW? You are probably asking, do I stay or do I go? I can’t make these decisions for the Wigan and Hull fans. In a challenging financial climate, with its uncertainly and unpredictability, to spend much of your hard earned cash is a big decision. All I can say is that I know that people will love this place. I know that this place will love the people of Northern England with their honesty and humour. Have a great think about it. Should you have any questions, I will be in the South Stand on Sunday, come and say hi.
I would like to thank everyone who has worked so hard to make this happen. Too many to mention all but I need to thank, Mark and Greg Sleigh, Jeremy at Destination Wollongong and Steve Keough at Destination NSW.
Stewart Frodsham, our production guy at Wigan now has the incredible task of pulling all this footage together. He has worked his socks of this week.
Speaking of hard work. If it wasn’t for the energy and tenacity of Dan Burton, this project would never have got off the ground. Well done all.
Lots of people at Wigan and at Hull are working incredibly hard to give both sets of fans an experience that they will never forget. Hull have been superb to work with and really match our drive and ambition.
Time for me to head home to my beautiful family and get ready for a couple of blinding games.
I feel tired yet energised- is that possible?
As I learned at the Nan Tien Temple, worrying doesn’t take away tomorrow’s troubles, it takes away today’s peace.
Disclaimer- this probably reads as though I was on holiday as I did lots of fun things. It’s not much fun writing about the boring stuff.
Second disclaimer - 150 lashes! 150 lashes is named after the brewer, James Squires, who got caught stealing ingredients to make the beer and got sentenced to 150 lashes. I don’t want our Financial Director asking why have I been spending money on ‘150 lashes’!!
30 August 2017
Hello RL fans everywhere!
Whether you are bouncing into work as a Hull FC fan today or crawling in like me as a deflated Wigan fan, the show must go on. Saturday was a thriller of a game and I hope it is remembered for the 34 players who committed so much to entertain us. Of course there has to be a winner and on this occasion it was Hull FC and we must congratulate them on historic back-to-back Challenge Cup wins.
This sets February up very nicely. When selecting who we should invite to NSW on this trip with us, we not only looked at which team would contribute to an outstanding spectacle on the field but one whose fans would bring much to the off-field party. Hull FC certainly tick both boxes. I am really glad that Adam, Radders and their team are on this adventure with us.
As I write this, we are 5 months 12 days to kick off. That may seem a long time but there is so much to do yet. Travel packages are now on sale, the website is all but built and the ticket office is open for business in the coming days. We now have to work hard to get people to the game.
There has been lots of discussion as to why we are taking a game to Australia. People have had their say. Some hate the idea, some love the idea. We are very comfortable with the reasons we are going. We are showcasing Super League and Wigan Rugby League Club to the world. This is a strategic deal with Regional and State government. In what we believe to be the first deal of its kind, this is a flagship project showing how sport can play a critical role in international relations. What’s not to love about that?
People raised an eyebrow when Wigan played Warrington in Milwaukee nearly 30 years ago and people are still talking about that. I was lucky enough to play in the cross code games against Bath. People questioned that decision but again, people are still saying ‘I was there’ at those games. It is a brave and courageous decision but one that has been considered. We are not afraid to think differently.
I head back out to NSW on Saturday for a week just putting some finishing touches to the event. The trip has two obvious highlights, Wigan v Hull in Wollongong and the Double Header at ANZ with Wigan playing South Sydney and Hull FC playing St George Illawarra Dragons. In a couple of week’s time, we will announce our full itinerary which will be jam-packed full of events. We want to create memories and we want to leave a footprint of the state of NSW.
More and more information will filter out from the trip over this next week. I will be writing blogs next doing video blogs. I hope to catch up with a few of the ex-Wigan favourites over there and have a good old yarn. I will also tell you more about the regions that we will be visiting. Many of you will know about the wonderful city of Sydney but some may have not heard about Wollongong. Let me tell you, it is a fantastic town. A very warm and welcoming place eagerly waiting the arrival of Wigan and Hull fans. Some people have said to me that it is the biggest thing to happen to the town for a very long time. I am going to sit down with a few locals to build a picture about what this means to people there.
To those of you who are undecided about the trip, I understand your reservations. It is a lot of money to travel to the other side of the world but one thing I can promise you is that we are working hard to create a visit that will be remembered for the rest of your lives.
When I get back, I am more than happy to meet anyone for a coffee who is undecided about making the trip.
There is no better way to bounce back from Saturday’s defeat than a trip to St Helens. It should be a belter. Your support, as always has been immense. We are going to need you again on Friday.
Enjoy your rugby and get ready for a great journey over the next five months!