Rugby League: Wigan's worries: Dave Hadfield on the new objectives for the world's top rugby league team

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The Independent Online
NO sooner have Wigan won back the right to call themselves the best club rugby league side in the world than they must turn their attention to the necessity of rebuilding.

Wednesday's memorable victory in Brisbane over the Broncos was all the more remarkable for being gained without two players who had already ended their Wigan careers, Dean Bell and Andy Platt. In addition, Sam Panapa and Billy McGinty were playing their last match for the club.

Panapa, whose willingness to play, and be effective, in virtually any position has made him one of Wigan's most valuable players over the past season, is joining Salford simply because they are prepared to give a two-year contract to a player over 30 when Wigan would only offer him a one-year deal. 'I thought I had done enough this season to be offered more than one more year,' Panapa said, after signing off in the best possible manner. 'I'm going to Salford purely for more security.'

The loss of McGinty to Workington will be less immediately obvious, because he has spent much of this season injured. 'I love Wigan and I always will,' he said. 'I won every medal, went on tour and played for Britain. But I'm looking to the future and I couldn't see one for me at Wigan.'

The future for two other Wigan players is limited to one more season at the club. The Auckland Warriors have announced the signing of Frano Botica, and only the formalities remain to be completed in the acquisition of Denis Betts.

These are large holes in Wigan's impressive armoury and while they have been checking the availability of several Australian centres, their top priority is the prodigiously gifted New Zealander, Henry Paul. However, Paul is under contract to Auckland, an irony which is not lost on a club who are in the process of losing four key players to the Warriors.

They may have an unexpected ally in the Auckland and former Wigan coach, John Monie, recently cast in the role of an asset-stripper from his old club. Monie is prepared to discuss a loan scheme that will enable Paul to play for Wigan.

Meanwhile, if players can help a coach's job application, Wigan's have produced a glowing reference on behalf of Graeme West. Their successful squad flew home on Friday without any announcement on making his appointment as John Dorahy's successor a permanent one, but confirmation cannot be long delayed.