By STEVE MASCORD
WIGAN chairman Ian Lenagan has challenged the New Zealand Warriors to a match in London.
And, speaking on Kiwi radio, the enigmatic owner has also predicted Castleford, Leeds, Hull and Wigan will make up the final four in this year’s Super League.
Aussie fans woke up on Monday morning to the news the two teams they are getting in an historic Super League competition match at WIN Stadium on February 10 – Wigan and Hull – will also contest this year’s Challenge Cup final at Wembley.
But Lenagan says that bold venture and the ANZ Stadium double header the following week should be just the tip of the iceberg.
“We, for example, have a very close relationship with New Zealand Warriors because there’s lots of Kiwis who have played for Wigan,” he told Trackside Radio.
“…probably the most famous being Dean Bell some time ago but the Iros.
“We would love New Zealand Warriors to come over to the UK and play against Wigan, for example. That would be one of the most attractive games we could do and we’d like to pla that in London as an example.
“We hope (this) will start the ball rolling and people will realise the massive commercial opportunity worldwide of club international rugby league.”
Asked to stare into his crystal ball as the Warriors go into the Super Eights in seventh spot, Lenagan said: ““We think we’re a good chance of, in the next seven games, getting five wins which will get us in the top four and take us to the grand final again because … we’re the current premiership holders and the world club challenge holders, we don’t like being in seventh position.
“Do we think we’ll get there? Yes, we think we will. We think Castleford, who’ve been playing superbly, together with Leeds, Hull and one of Wigan or St Helens will be the top four who plays off in the end.” (continued below)
Lenagan gave three reasons for the continued engagement with the southern hemisphere game: brand building, the opportunity to lift the sport’s profile and commercial benefits.
“We believe club rugby league on an international scale is a very attractive operation,” he explained.
“Where rugby union might beat us on the international calendar, in terms of the popularity of the game, we believe rugby league at club level – I can only speak in terms of England, Wales, Scotland – rugby league is far more exciting and far more supported at the club level.
“As the owner of one of the biggest clubs around … I want rugby league to take its rightful place on the international stage instead of just being the strong game in Australia and New Zealand.
“And I think this is the way to do it.”
Meanwhile, Josh Hodgson, Elliott Whitehead, Joe Greenwood and Joe Wardle were the British winners during round 21 of the NRL with some big names on the wrong side of the score sheet.
“The results speak for themselves sometimes,” lamented Canterbury captain James Graham after his side’s 16-8 loss to Penrith.
“I thought the effort was there … but I can’t put my finger on it, why we lost that game tonight.”
St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor was scathing in his assessment of The Bunker following a shock 21-14 loss to last placed Newcastle.
McGregor’s skipper, Gareth Widdop, lamented: “What can you do about it? It’s disappointing when calls don’t go your way.
“They spend millions of dollars on it and don’t get it right.”
JAMES GRAHAM: 105 metres and 40 tackles in 58 minutes as Canterbury crashed 16-8 to Penrith.
CHRIS HEIGHINGTON: 100 metres in just 28 minutes off the bench for Cronulla in their 26-12 win over the Warriors.
JOE WARDLE: Played 48 minutes in the 21-14 boilover win against St George Illawarra, making 28 tackles.
GARETH WIDDOP: Three goals for the side beaten at McDonald Jones Stadium.
TOM BURGESS: 34 tackles and 104 metres in 49 minutes in the Sout Sydney side beaten by Canberra.
SAM BURGESS: 111 metres and 29 tackles for the skipper over just 44 minutes in the 32-18 defeat.
GEORGE BURGESS: 140 metres in 32 minutes off the bench at ANZ Stadium.
JOSH HODGSON: 34 tackles and 118 metres in yet another 80 minute display for Canberra.
ELLIOTT WHITEHEAD: 37 tackles and seven missed for the Green Machine.
JOE GREENWOOD: 90 metres and 30 tackles as Gold Coast were outclassed 26-4 by Wests Tigers at CBUS Super Stadium.