ALL eyes will be on Wigan tonight after myriad issues, including Joel Tomkins’s drunken verbal attack on a barmaid, but Wakefield coach Chris Chester says his side must concentrate on themselves.
Former England second-row Tomkins was stood down by his club for four weeks and fined £10,000 after a video emerged of him on social media abusing bar staff in the town.
Brother Sam Tomkins was also fined £5,000 for his lesser involvement in the incident – which occurred five weeks ago but came to light on Saturday – although he has not been suspended and is set to play in this evening’s Super League game at Belle Vue.
Wigan are second in the table but have not won since head coach Shaun Wane announced he would be leaving at the end of the season, losing at bottom-placed Hull KR and then suffering Saturday’s 23-0 Challenge Cup exit at Warrington.
Indeed, the Cherry and Whites, tipped by many to reach the Grand Final, have scored just one try in their last two outings, adding to fears this latest controversy may derail their campaign.
It could, then, potentially be a good time for Wakefield to capitalise – or, alternatively, Chester’s side may face a backlash. Nevertheless, the West Yorkshire club are keen to relaunch their own campaign after Friday’s success at Widnes Vikings, just a second win in their last six outings.
We just have to make sure we don’t give them any cheap field position and control the ball above 85 per cent.Wakefield coach Chris Chester
“It was important for morale and confidence,” said Chester. “It was probably the best we’ve defended all season. With the ball, we were good in patches but there was a lot we needed to work on this week. We have done, though, so, hopefully, we’ll be more fluent in that regard on Thursday.
“I am expecting a reaction from Wigan; Shaun will have them really up for the game.
“They’ve had it very tough over the last couple of weeks but I know they’ll be looking to come away from here with the win.
“We just have to make sure we don’t give them any cheap field position and control the ball above 85 per cent. If we do, we give ourselves a real chance.”
Asked if he was surprised by the embarrassing, foul-mouthed video that emerged of Joel Tomkins, Chester, who played in the 2000 and 2001 Grand Finals for Wigan, said: “I was surprised but it takes a bigger man to come out and apologise. Joel has come out with a very sincere apology and a line has been drawn under it now.
“You don’t want to see the game tarnished like that but I think Wigan have dealt with it professionally.
“Wigan’s focus now is to move on and make sure they finish the season off really well.
“I’m pretty certain Shaun will want to do that. That news took me more by surprise – Shaun Wane announcing that he’ll be leaving at the end of the season.”
The 39-year-old explained: “I have a lot of respect for Shaun and I texted him when I found out as it did take me by such surprise. He’s probably one of the coaches I have spoken to most since becoming a head coach. He’s given me a lot of help both in terms of coaching and with players as well.
“Hopefully, he stays within rugby league. I’d be very disappointed to see him leave for another sport. I wish him well but the focus is for us to to get a win Thursday night.
“It’s important we keep picking up some points. We’re one point off Leeds in sixth so a win will take us up again. We’re still looking up the table and not at those underneath.”
Wakefield are without back-rows Chris Annakin – attending his brother’s wedding in Poland – and James Batchelor who, by resting a shoulder injury this week, the club hope should allow him to continue playing the rest of the season.
Captain Danny Kirmond returns as does Matty Ashurst so Trinity are well-served. Wane said of the brothers: “All I’ll say is that they’ve made a massive error but I’ve known Joel and Sam for 15 years now. They are very good people, well-mannered and they’ve made a huge error which they’re paying the price for.”