Noble’s Wigan plan set for premature end

As rumour would have it, Brian Noble won’t be at Wigan come the beginning of 2010.

It’s 2004 since the Warriors last reached a major final – the Challenge Cup final which they lost to St Helens – and 2003 since they reached the Super League Grand Final.

So it is ironic that they could be looking at the future without the man who has, albeit unspectacularly, stopped the rot and at least got them within touching distance of making a final.

Two consecutive Challenge Cup semi-finals, and going within 80 minutes of a Grand Final twice in recent years has got the Warriors fans sniffing glory once again.

Wigan sealed their play-off spot with a determined 29-26 win over Castleford, which featured a hat-trick from young starlet Sam Tomkins.

Over the years, the Wigan academy has produced a number of youngsters that have slipped through the net, mainly owing to the previous administration’s uncontrollable desire to buy expensive, overrated Australians.

Challenge Cup finalists Huddersfield boasted a number of ex-Wiganers that the Cherry and Whites have allowed to leave over the years – including Luke Robinson, Kevin Brown, Stephen Wild, David Hodgson and Martin Aspinwall.

But as Noble appears to be nurturing the progress of Tomkins and Shaun Ainscough, Wigan are set to turn overseas for their next coach. Whoever it turns out to be must move away from expensive imports and instead focus on getting the best out of the local products – just as St Helens and Leeds have done in recent years, and look how well it is served those two clubs.

One of Wigan’s former overseas coaches – Ian Millward – will be taking the helm at Leigh Sports Village next season. It’s exciting times to be a Centurions fan, particularly after a disappointing 18 months that started with Super League rejection and then a disappointing Championship campaign.

It leaves 2010 as a year that requires achievement. Whether that be a repeat of the 2006 Northern Rail Cup success or an appearance in the Championship Grand Final, the Centurions must step up to throw their hat in the ring for Super League 2012.

The Championship has enjoyed its most competitive season ever – although whether that has compromised its quality is another debate – but with more teams set to get even more desperate for success next season, appearing in a final may just be even harder than usual.

But if one man can do it, Millward can. And as Leigh enter their final two games looking to grind out the results they desperately need to ensure their survival – and their right to fight for next season’s Championship honours – Millward will have his fingers crossed that his biggest challenge isn’t over before it has begun.

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