Here we go…2018 season is nearly upon us, and this year I will be posting very few match reports. Because I spent the back end of last season concentrating on my university studies and getting a job, I failed to get enough bylines for RFL accreditation in 2018, not to worry though, the clubs themselves have been more than understanding and are happy enough to grant access to players and coaches for interviews.
I’d like to wish every player, coach and fan of rugby league all the very best for 2018. With a replacement for Nigel Wood yet to be decided, it’s bound to be another year of ups and downs for the usual clubs, but hopefully Red Hall can sort out a peaceful and smooth succession…
Given that the clubs and the RFL have yet to decide how the league will be structured next year, it looks like the club v RFL war will carry on until one side either loses or gets bored.
Looking ahead, here are my predictions for 2018, as well as the top four in the Championship.
- Leeds Rhinos
- Hull FC
- Castleford Tigers
- St. Helens
- Hull KR
- Wakefield Trinity
- Catalan Dragons
- Huddersfield Giants
- Salford Red Devils
- Leigh Centurions
- Toronto Wolfpack
- Featherstone Rovers
- London Broncos
SL Grand Final Winners
- St. Helens
Challenge Cup Winners
- Leeds Rhinos
When you hear the surname Tomkins, most rugby league fans first thoughts are to the Wigan full back, Sam, but his elder brother Joel has his own ambitions, not only for his on-field exploits, but his life post game as well.
“This year, we’re aiming to do the treble” he tells me at the Warriors media launch in the stunning surroundings of the Haigh Hall country house, on the outskirts of the town.
“We are more than capable of winning the Grand Final, Challenge Cup and the league leaders shield”
After a spell in the “other” code of the game, he is aware that at the end of his current 2-year deal, he will have to prove himself in order to keep playing:
“I’m the wrong side of 30 now, and after injury stopped me making as many appearances last season as I would have liked, and I appreciate being in this position, as I might not have too many years left playing this game”
The groin injury that side-lined him for some of last year appears to be gone, and Joel says this pre-season has been one that he has enjoyed immensely.
Having won every major domestic honour in the game, he says that it’s the winning of more trophies that keeps him hungry as a player:
“When you win a Grand final or a Challenge Cup, you get a taste for it, and you want it again.
“I know I’m in a privileged position, coming in and training with an immense bunch of athletes who all want to win things.
“We get paid to train and do something we enjoy, and OK, there are times when its tough, giving up weekends and time with the family, but I can’t complain, its an honour to come in and play for this club.”
Looking further ahead, Joel has his wife, Nicola, as well has there two children, Anna and Seth, and I asked if they enjoy watching him play the sport he loves, and if he’d be happy with Seth following in his footsteps;
“I wouldn’t push him into playing the game, but I suppose that’s because I’ve been playing the game for 20 plus years, I’ll be happy if he plays tennis or golf.
Having a family changes your perspective and priorities on the game. Up to being 25, rugby was all I thought about, but getting married and having kids changes all of that.”
Looking further ahead, I asked if he fancied following in the footsteps of a fair few others and into the Wigan version of the Liverpool FC “bootroom” and onto the coaching staff after he hangs up his boots:
“No, I don’t see it for me. You have to really want to be a coach, watching hour after hour of game time during the week, as well as picking all the side and getting players ready isn’t for me.
I want to stay in the game, but on the management side. I’d rather follow the likes of Kris (Radlinski) and Kevin (Sinfield) into the business side of the game, that’s where I see my future.”
Surrounded by his team mates, he cuts a more introspective figure than some of his more outgoing team mates, and that’s borne out by his plans for the future.
He may not be the first Tomkins that comes to mind, but he certainly wants to be the one that leaves the lasting legacy on and off the field at Wigan Warriors.