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Super League Wigan Warriors

Hardaker set for tee-role in 2019

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After re-joining with the Wigan Warriors squad after a period of rehabilitation with the Sporting Chance clinic, former England international Zak Hardaker is not only in line to make a big impact in his return to the sport after a drugs ban but also is set to take the goal-kicking role vacated by the now-departed Sam Tomkins.

Wigan’s 2019 head coach Adrian Lam expressed as much to the media. “Zak wants to do it, but we’ll need two or three players who can kick and we’ll work with them all,” he explained, suggesting that Hardaker is in line to start the season as first-choice. All of the Warriors’ kickers will benefit from the continued support of former England rugby union international fly-half Charlie Hodgson who, after working on a part-time basis as a goal-kicking consultant in 2018, will continue in the role next year.

While speaking of the likelihood that 2015 Man of Steel Hardaker will take the kicking duties, Lam also outlined how impressed he has been with the former Castleford full-back so far in pre-season. “You can see here on the training pitch, he’s a natural footballer, with the ball in hand he’s skilful, he’s a strong runner, and he knows what to do in certain situations,” he noted and, given the quality and experience which has left the club in the shape of Tomkins, he may well be exactly the player they need to slot in at full-back. “He’s only just come back in so it’ll take him a couple of weeks to get into the rhythm but everyone is excited about what he can bring,” Lam – a former Wigan player – also added, perhaps with a cautious note.

An aspect that has impressed the former Papua New Guinea player and head coach is the way in which the squad has welcomed Hardaker into the playing fold, especially after his time getting treatment for his relationship with alcohol. “They’ve been kept in the picture and they’ve been very supportive of him, and I think that’s made him feel more at home,” he said, adding that while Hardaker is back with the squad, the club are aware that the player may well need support throughout his time with the club.

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Super League Wigan Warriors

Wigan sign Sammut

Malta international Jarrod Sammut has signed a two-year deal with Wigan Warriors after leaving the newly-promoted London Broncos ahead of 2019.

The 31-year-old completed the move and was announced on Saturday as the man Adrian Lam had brought into the club to add competition in the halves. The former Bradford star was a key player in the Broncos’ surprise promotion into Super League in 2018 and scored all of the team’s points in their 4-2 victory over Toronto Wolfpack in the Million Pound Game in October. Despite that promotion, Sammut admitted in the week that the need to leave the capital club came due to his need to be closer to his family. “I don’t think it was the right time to leave,” he told TotalRL during the week, adding that “I have some personal things going on in my life at the moment that has come up quite abruptly and in the end, I had to move back up north.”

For the latter part of the season, Sammut was commuting to London from Cleckheaton – where his family moved to be around their family – and, after deciding that, ultimately, that was too much to manage, he left the Broncos. He will now hope to line up against Danny Ward’s men in the cherry and white jersey and, following the announcement of his deal, the former Penrith player was keen to get stuck in at the DW Stadium. “It’s a massive opportunity for myself to play for one of the biggest clubs in Super League. I’m really excited,” he explained. “I hope I can bring a different style of rugby and attacking flair to the team, as I’ve been around the game for quite some time.”

Lam, who will lead Wigan for just one year in 2019 before Shaun Edwards takes control, outlined his hope that Sammut’s skills can offer something new to the club. “Jarrod is player who can produce a little bit of magic and keep defences guessing. He’s a livewire type of half-back, and he’ll add to our options in the halves,” the former Wigan player said.

 

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Catalans Dragons Super League Wigan Warriors

Camp Nou confirmed for Dragons

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It has been confirmed today that Catalans Dragons will host their Super League match against Wigan Warriors at FC Barcelona’s iconic Camp Nou stadium. The match will be held on Saturday 18th May in Catalonia and will be the first rugby league match held at the 99000-plus capacity venue.

After their Challenge Cup triumph in August, Steve McNamara’s Catalans team paraded the trophy at half-time of one of the football club’s La Liga matches and were promptly invited to host a league match at the stadium by Barcelona’s club president Josep Maria Bartomeu. It had long been suggested that Wigan would be the visitors and, today, that has been revealed.

“I think we do not realise yet the impact of this event for our club, our competition and our sport,” the Dragons chairman Bernard Guasch told the media following the confirmation. “The prospect of playing a game in one of the biggest stadiums in the world is exceptional and I would like to thank Josep Maria Bartomeu for giving us this opportunity,” he added.

Indeed, Wigan took their Super League clash against Hull FC to Australia early in 2018 and the Warriors’ chairman Ian Lenagan was understandably delighted to be taking part in a historic moment for the sport. “This is landmark moment in Super League’s history, and we are extremely proud to play our part,” he explained. “Having European rugby league’s two current title holders face each other in the iconic surroundings of the Camp Nou is a mouth-watering prospect and is one that I truly believe will be an historic occasion for the sport.”

It is also hoped – perhaps expected – that the football club would lend their considerable expertise in marketing the match and, in turn, could well introduce a new group of supporters to the game. Wigan fans historically have travelled well also and, with the game taking part in Catalonia, the Dragons should also be followed incredibly well which should make for a superb occasion.

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Super League Wigan Warriors

Manfredi pens new deal at Warriors

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Wigan’s Grand Final star Dom Manfredi has signed a new three-year deal with the Warriors, extending his stay with the club to at least the end of 2021.

After two years out with serious injury troubles, 25-year-old Manfredi returned to the Warriors team towards the end of the 2018 campaign at a time when he was needed – the club were already missing Liam Marshall and Joe Burgess due to injury. As the club chased yet another title, it was imperative that Manfredi returned from his long lay-off in good shape and, on the biggest stage of all, he delivered. Two tries in the 12-4 victory over Warrington at Old Trafford in October sealed the Grand Final trophy for Wigan and immediately dispelled the pain Manfredi experienced through his lengthy absence.

“I’m over the moon to be honest,” Manfredi told the club’s official website following the announcement. A Wigan academy graduate, the winger was understandably keen to remain with the Warriors going forward, adding that “I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else as I love the Club, I love everything that it’s about so I’m really happy to extend my stay at the DW Stadium.” An incredible try-scoring record of 52 tries in 63 Warriors appearances show just how much ability Manfredi has and, after starring in the Grand Final, 2019 promises to be a big year for the wide man.

The Cherry and White’s executive director Kris Radlinski was also delighted to see the 2016 Dream Team inclusion sign a new deal. “It was great seeing Dom back in action at the back end of the 2018 season, doing what he does best. Everyone knows his quality,” he said, adding that “he’s been in some pretty dark places whilst he was injured and the way his return to action captured the imagination of the fans, players and staff was nothing short of remarkable. He’s worked incredibly hard in both a physical and mental sense to get himself back to playing Super League rugby once again.”