When it comes to Wigan, lightning tends not to strike twice in the same place, let alone three or four times.
One of the finer moments of Steve Simms’ coaching reign between 1994 and 1997 came in March 1995 when Halifax beat them at Thrum Hall.
The team from Central Park more than gained revenge for that setback however; in three more games before the end of the calendar year they won them all and scored 142 points in the process!
In September they returned to Halifax with both teams being undefeated in the truncated 1995/1996 season. Like the local amateur clubs who are currently in the Conference the switch was taking place from a winter to a summer season and more to the point, both sides were now fulltime after News Corporations huge injection of capital into our game.
The problem was that no club had yet to receive what was already being called “Murdoch’s Millions” as the money wasn’t due to come on tap until the start of Super League itself in 1996.
This meant that several clubs were already feeling the pinch and borrowing money from a merchant bank on the strength of future income.
Halifax president Tony Gartland had resigned in the spring after a massive furore over a potential merger with Bradford. Remember the Easter Monday match with Leeds when fans had carried a coffin round the pitch in protest and Gartland had to watch the game from a window in the pavilion because the police were worried that they couldn’t guarantee his safety?
By the time that Wigan turned up there were other problems as well. The local Safety Team had imposed a capacity of 4000 on the ground until such time as urgent works were carried out including segregating the stadium and installing crash barriers in the Scratchin’ Shed.
The players were just getting on with the job, training daily at the new training ground at North Dean and enjoying new, vastly enhanced contracts in many cases.
They had already beaten London, Bradford and Oldham but Wigan had revenge on their agenda.
The Halifax team that night was Mike Umaga, John Bentley, John Schuster, Grant Anderson (Gary Divorty), Mark Preston (Abi Ekoku), Carl Briggs, Wayne Parker, Karl Harrison, Paul Rowley, Wayne Jackson (John Fieldhouse), Paul Moriarty (Carl Gillespie), Michael Jackson and Simon Baldwin.
Wigan included Kelvin Skerrett and Martin Hall and won 48-13.
Umaga, Ekoku, Wayne Jackson and Briggs were all new recruits (Asa Amone and Fereti Tuilagi were to fly in the following week to bolster the squad) but although Briggs did his best to inspire the side with one of a series of drop goals Marty Moana was to arrive as a replacement within months. The boots of Michael Hagan were proving hard to fill.
There was even more bad news in that Grant Anderson had suffered a reoccurrence of the knee injury which had plagued him during the previous season. We didn’t see much more of “Scarlet” (as in Pimpernel because no-one ever knew where he was) in the near future.