A new season of Super League for Wigan Warriors and a new era for the San Francisco 49ers.
For the Warriors, four straight Grand Finals and two titles, would leave you expecting them to reach the final four and another final. The 49ers are at the other end of the leader board, as a two win team in the 2016 normal season; one win above the last placed team in the NFL.
Wigan keep their Head Coach, Shaun Wane, as you would expect with the success the team has achieved in the last four years. The first game out of the 2017 season was a good first half win against Salford, taking a 26-nil score into the break. No points in the second half was disappointing and a couple of easy tries from Salford, surely left the coach unhappy and the fans expecting a similar rollercoaster ride through the season as last year.
In the pre-season games, new signing at fullback, Morgan Escare, looked like his speed and field kicking ability may be a big advantage, for a team which doesn’t look like it has done anything new. Recent success would suggest that if it isn’t broke don’t fix it, however, a little bit of coaching smarts could easily undo the system. However, looking at the Saints-Leeds opener and then the Castleford-Leigh game, the off-season simply seems to have seen teams bulk up and run down the middle as the over-riding game plan. Boring is the word which immediately springs to mind and I wonder if Wigan has the size to match some of the other teams.
In a side note: the lack of markers standing square in those first two televised matches was beyond a joke. The only joke coming when a side was eventually penalised, leaving the players and crowd wondering how that particular one was penalised when all of the others got away with it. Super League has got to follow the NRL with two referees and the fundamental laws of the game, being playing the ball with the foot and standing square at marker, being enforced.
Meanwhile, in San Francisco, the franchise owners and fans alike, are hoping and praying that the combination of General Manager John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan, will return the Niners to the glory days of Bill Walsh and George Seifert, Joe Montana and Steve Young. The Harbaugh era of play-offs, a divisional championship, and a Super Bowl appearance, seems to have been completely eradicated by the fantastically poor performance of the last two years.
The early press conferences seems to have been going over well, with the inexperience of John Lynch as a scout and manager being the key talking point. Shanahan’s run to Super Bowl 51 with the Atlanta Falcons, have clearly established his credentials as someone who can get the job done. Both men are appearing together and giving the same message, which clearly hasn’t happened for a while in the Bay area, and that message is about returning the franchise back to its former glory and doing it the right way. Clearly a message to the owner Jed York and the fans, that there isn’t going to be a quick fix to the struggling franchise.