7 players who have featured for both St Helens and Wigan Warriors in the derby

Ben Olawumi
Kevin Iro, Sean Long, Martin Gleeson

Kevin Iro (left), Sean Long (middle) & Martin Gleeson (right) all played in derbies for both St Helens & Wigan Warriors

Over the years, a plethora of players have donned both the red V of St Helens and the cherry and white of Wigan Warriors, featuring in derbies for both clubs.

Ahead of this year’s Good Friday clash between St Helens and Wigan, we take an in-depth look at seven of them..

Micky Higham

Micky Higham
Micky Higham in action for Wigan Warriors in 2007, tackling Leeds Rhinos’ Rob Burrow

Kicking things off is Higham, who joined Saints ahead of the 2001 season from Leigh Centurions, who had been beaten in the second tier’s play-off final equivalent by Dewsbury Rams the year prior.

Higham wasn’t a regular starter in his first year donning the Red V, but established himself as their hooker before long and featured in the 2002 Grand Final triumph against Bradford Bulls as well as the 2003 World Club Challenge against Sydney Roosters which followed.

Bradford would – officially – be the club that Higham departed Knowsley Road for at the end of the 2005 season, with 116 appearances for Saints to his name. They wouldn’t sell him directly to Wigan, but instead sold him to the Bulls who immediately allowed him to join the Warriors with Terry Newton going the other way.

In his three years at the DW Stadium, the hooker – also able to slot into the halves if required – would make 97 appearances, but the closest he came to any silverware was the 2007 Challenge Cup, with Wigan beaten at the semi-final stage by Catalans Dragons in the French club’s second season as a Super League side.

Now 43, Higham would go on to take his career appearance tally to over 550 with 175 for Warrington Wolves between 2009 and 2015, and 112 more back in Leigh colours. Having lifted the Challenge Cup twice with Warrington, and been beaten twice in the Super League Grand Final including in 2013 by Wigan, he would retire at the end of the 2019 season.

The ex-Great Britain and England international, who spent time on the coaching staff at Leigh, now runs his own gym and regularly appears on commentary with outlets including BBC Radio Manchester.

Martin Gleeson

Martin Gleeson
St Helens’ Martin Gleeson (centre) celebrates a try against Wigan Warriors in 2003 with team-mates Paul Wellens (left), Chris Joynt (back) & Ade Gardner (right)

Wigan-born Gleeson, whose senior debut actually came in the colours of Swinton Lions, joined Saints following Huddersfield Giants‘ relegation from Super League at the end of the 2001 season having spent three years in West Yorkshire.

The centre would earn his first representative honours while donning the Red V, featuring for England, Great Britain and Lancashire for the first time.

At club level, while at Knowsley Road, he won the 2003 Grand Final and scored a try in that victory against Bradford at Old Trafford as well as lifting the Challenge Cup the following year.

Gleeson was banned for the last four months of the 2004 Super League season however having been found guilty of betting on Saints to lose against Bradford in the league game which preceded their cup semi-final against Huddersfield, and during that ban, moved on to Warrington Wolves. 31 tries and 69 appearances were his overall tallies for the Red V.

April 2009 would be when the back eventually left Warrington, midway through the season, joining hometown club Wigan on a three-and-a-half year deal as Richie Mathers went the other way.

Gleeson would go on to score a brace of tries as the Warriors beat former employers Saints in the 2010 Grand Final, but by March the following year, he had been released with disciplinary and personal issues stated as the reasons. Before retiring in September 2014, the centre then spent time with both Hull FC & Salford – then City Reds.

Having been England rugby union’s attack coach, he is now back in league at Warrington as assistant to Wire head coach Sam Burgess.

Bryn Hargreaves

Bryn Hargreaves
Bryn Hargreaves in action for St Helens against Wigan Warriors in 2008

Another Wigan-born ace who featured for both clubs is the late Bryn Hargreaves, whose body was found in March 2023 in the US, 14 months after he had been reported as missing. Hargreaves emigrated over to the States after retiring from rugby league, and had been living in West Virginia.

The former prop came through the Warriors’ academy to make a senior debut in July 2004, making 33 appearances in total before moving out on loan to Leigh two years later as Wigan completed the signing of Stuart Fielden from Bradford. Remaining with the Centurions until the end of the 2006 season, Saints would be his next permanent club.

Hargreaves’ fourth game donning the Red V came in the 2007 World Club Challenge as Daniel Anderson’s side beat NRL kings Brisbane Broncos, going on to feature in Grand Finals in both 2008 and 2009, with Leeds Rhinos the victors at Old Trafford on both occasions.

After 115 appearances and four seasons at Knowsley Road, Hargreaves departed for Bradford ahead of the 2011 campaign, retiring at the age of 26 at the end of the following season after two years with the Bulls which saw him appear 54 times, scoring the 11th and final try of his career in March 2012 against Salford.

Joe Greenwood

Joe Greenwood
Joe Greenwood in action for Wigan Warriors in 2019

Saints academy product Greenwood debuted for the club at first-team level against hometown club Oldham in a Challenge Cup tie in April 2012, and featured three times in total that year, including in a derby against Wigan.

With stints on loan at Whitehaven and Rochdale Hornets in-between, he would form part of the squad which won the 2014 Super League title, albeit missing out on the Grand Final itself. In total, Greenwood scored 26 tries in 77 appearances donning the Red V before earning a move Down Under to the NRL with the Gold Coast Titans, who he joined at the beginning of the 2017 campaign.

The forward, who played junior rugby at Saddleworth, spent 18 months amongst Australia’s elite and featured 22 times altogether before returning to Super League with Wigan, penning a three-and-a-half year deal in June 2018.

Greenwood’s second game back in this country came against Saints, and come the end of 2018, he was a Super League champion, starting in the Warriors’ 12-4 Grand Final triumph over Warrington at Old Trafford and earning his only England cap to date a few weeks later against New Zealand at Elland Road.

Now 30, the Oldham-born ace’s time at Wigan ended after the unforgettable 2020 Grand Final against Saints with Jack Welsby scoring the winning try after the final hooter had gone. Earlier that year, Greenwood had been shipped out on loan to Leeds Rhinos, but never made an appearance at Headingley due to the COVID-19 Pandemic hitting.

He joined Huddersfield Giants from Wigan, and that’s where he remains to this day, featuring in the 2022 Challenge Cup final against the Cherry and Whites at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Greenwood is – at the time of writing – just 13 shy of the 150 Super League appearance milestone.

Sean Long

Sean Long
Sean Long with the ball in hand for Wigan Warriors in 1997

Long is undoubtedly a Saints legend having spent the best part of 13 seasons with the club. Only six men have made more appearances while donning the Red V, and one of those is current captain Jonny Lomax who only overtook him last week. No player is likely to get near Long’s goal-kicking record of 989 for Saints either, probably ever.

The playmaker scored over 2,600 points for the Red V in total, winning four Grand Finals and five Challenge Cups, thrice the Lance Todd Trophy winner after arriving from Widnes Vikings in June 1997.

But it was Wigan, his hometown club, where the Super League legend began his career. Signing for the Warriors from local amateur club Wigan St Judes, Long made his senior debut for the Cherry and Whites in November 1994, but would be ruled out for 18 months soon after having picked up a knee injury.

Eventually, after just 12 first-team appearances, he would be sold to Widnes in April 1997 as part of a deal which saw Lee Hansen go the other way. And having made only nine appearances for the Vikings, he had impressed enough to command a fee of £80,000 from Saints for his services.

Establishing himself as a regular Great Britain & England international during his 13-year stint at Knowsley Road, he rounded off his career with two years at Hull FC, making 22 appearances over the course of the 2010 and 2011 seasons, hanging up his boots when he was just shy of 400 career appearances.

Playing wise, he has since had short stints in union with amateur outfits Preston Grasshoppers and Orrell, but Long has carved out a coaching career for himself too. Now heading up ambitious League 1 outfit Oldham, the 47-year-old has previously held roles with Salford, Samoa, Saints, Harlequins (union), Leeds, France and Featherstone.

Kevin Iro

Kevin Iro
St Helens’ Kevin Iro fends off a tackle in a Challenge Cup game against Wigan Warriors in 2001

We had to get an overseas star in somewhere on this list, and Iro fits the bill perfectly! The New Zealander, a 34-time Kiwi international, was still a teenager when Wigan brought him over to this country in 1987.

Affectionately known as ‘The Beast’, the versatile back had played for the Glen Innes Falcons back home, and became an instant hit with the Warriors faithful, scoring a brace as well as three conversions as they won the Lancashire Cup in 1988 with victory over Salford.

A few months later, he would score another try in the John Player Special Trophy final against Widnes and the Regal Trophy final against the same opponents the following January, with Wigan winning both of those.

The Auckland native would go on to join St Helens at the back end of his career in 1999, but before then, he had donned a shirt for Manly Sea Eagles, Hunter Warriors and the Auckland Warriors in the Southern Hemisphere as well as Leeds.

With 100 appearances for Wigan and 124 for Leeds, Iro had 124 tries to his name in the British game by the time he returned with Saints in ’99, joining the Merseyside outfit from the Auckland Warriors.

Iro won the Super League Grand Final against Bradford at the end of his first year with Saints, scoring their only try in a tight contest at Old Trafford, and featured again the year after as they repeated the feat, this time beating former club Wigan at the Theatre of Dreams.

And while league success didn’t come in 2001, the Red V still triumphed in the World Club Challenge – against Brisbane Broncos – and the Challenge Cup final, beating Bradford at Twickenham.

Now 55, Iro would depart at the end of that season, seemingly hanging up his boots, before returning as the head coach of the Cook Islands for a three-part series against the New Zealand Māori in 2006. Representing his heritage, he had played three games for the Kukis in the 2000 World Cup, and in 2006 pulled his boots on once last time in a World Cup Qualifier against Fiji.

Matty Smith

Matty Smith
Matty Smith takes a conversion for Wigan Warriors during the 2014 World Club Challenge against Sydney Roosters in Australia

Rounding us off is Smith, a man who will be involved in this year’s Good Friday showdown as Paul Wellens‘ assistant at Saints, and the man who also heads up his hometown club’s women’s team.

Smith – after a youth career in football with Premier League outfit Everton – chose rugby league and came through the ranks donning the Red V, debuting at senior level in March 2006.

The 36-year-old struggled to establish himself as a first-team regular in his first stint with his hometown club, but departed – after loans with Widnes, Celtic Crusaders and Salford – having featured in the 2010 Grand Final defeat to Wigan, that his 20th Saints appearance.

Salford were his next permanent destination, and two days after his England debut in July 2012, he completed a mid-season switch across the North West to Wigan, where his career would really kickstart, scoring 721 points in 139 appearances.

The playmaker would spend four-and-a-half years with the Warriors, featuring in four consecutive Grand Finals – including the 2014 defeat to Saints at Old Trafford, winning two of those and lifting the Challenge Cup in 2013 with a victory at Wembley against Hull FC which saw him named the Lance Todd Trophy winner with a man of the match showing.

Smith returned to Saints for a second stint ahead of the 2017 season, winning the League Leaders’ Shield the following year but missing out on a shot at Grand Final glory with defeat in the play-offs to Warrington.

Playing one game on dual-registration for Sheffield Eagles in 2018, his time back at Saints would come to an end with his total tallies for the club standing at 49 appearances, with five tries and 10 goals in that time as well as a memorable long-range drop goal to win a game against Salford in June 2017.

Before he retired at the end of the 2022 campaign, the half-back spent time with Catalans Dragons and Widnes Vikings, as well as featuring five times on loan for Warrington during the 2019 season while contracted to Catalans.

Smith is now the current assistant coach to Paul Wellens for the St Helens men’s side as well as being head coach of the club’s women’s team.

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