An ultimate 13 of rugby league players born in Wigan, including Warriors quartet

Ben Olawumi
Jack Welsby, Liam Marshall, George Williams

From left to right: Jack Welsby, Liam Marshall, George Williams all form part of our ultimate 13 of rugby league players born in Wigan

Throughout the summer at Love Rugby League, we’re going to be taking a geographical tour of some of rugby league’s most famous towns and cities and compiling some dream line-ups comprising of active players.

Some places will unsurprisingly throw out star-studded sides with some of the best players in the world included. But some may surprise you about the quality of stars the area has produced.

So far in this feature series, we’ve taken a look at Halifax, Widnes and Warrington.

Next up? Wigan, once known as a Lancashire town but these days comes under Greater Manchester. One of the most famous rugby league towns, Wigan Warriors, have fielded 12 academy products so far in 2024.

Here’s our ultimate 13 of players born or raised in Wigan…

1. Jack Welsby

Jack Welsby St Helens Alamy
Jack Welsby scoring a try for St Helens in 2024

We kick things off with a die-hard Wigan Athletic fan starring in the shirt of the Warriors’ bitter rivals St Helens. 23-year-old Welsby’ grew up a Warriors fan, following the side his dad and grandad both supported, but was snapped up by Saints’ academy as a teenager having made the switch from Shevington to Blackbrook.

Having won everything there is to win already, he is now one of Super League’s superstars. No one will ever forget his winning try against Wigan in the 2020 Grand Final, but if anyone somehow did, he’s even got a tattoo to remind everyone of the occasion!

2. Tommy Makinson

Tommy Makinson
St Helens stalwart Tommy Makinson

Another Saints man takes our first wing spot, and it’s a similar story. Makinson, born in Ince, joined the Red V many moons ago from community outfit Wigan St Judes.

The 32-year-old – who scored his 200th try for Saints on Friday night against Leeds Rhinos – has never played for another club on the senior front, at least not permanently, but after 14 seasons his time at the Totally Wicked Stadium will come to an end later this year.

EXCLUSIVE: Tommy Makinson explains reasons behind St Helens decision after ’emotional’ week

3. Stefan Ratchford

Stefan Ratchford Warrington Wolves Alamy
Stefan Ratchford kicking a conversion for Warrington Wolves in 2024

35-year-old Ratchford is next up and continues the run of England internationals from the town, playing junior rugby for both Wigan St Cuthberts and Wigan St Patricks before being snapped up by Salford – then City Reds.

One of the most versatile players around, Ratchford surpassed a century of appearances for Salford prior to joining Warrington Warrington in 2012. 12 years on, he remains with Wire as their club captain, and is closing in on 350 appearances in primrose and blue.

4. Ben Currie

Ben Currie Warrington Wolves Alamy
Ben Currie of Warrington Wolves poses with his man of the match medal following their win at Leeds Rhinos earlier this season

Partnering him in the centres is Wire team-mate Currie, who hails from Lowton. Another experienced head with close to 300 senior career appearances, the Ireland and England international played at youth level for Wigan-based amateur club Golborne Parkside prior to linking up with Warrington.

Having also debuted for the Wolves in 2012, much like Ratchford, the 29-year-old has never permanently played for another club since. Sam Burgess has thrust him into loose this year, and he’s excelled, but he’s going in our side at centre where he played for England against Tonga last autumn.

5. Liam Marshall

Liam Marshall Wigan Warriors Alamy
Wigan Warriors winger Liam Marshall celebrates their 2024 World Cub Challenge triumph

The first of five current Warriors stars in this side, 28-year-old Marshall is a product of his hometown club’s academy. Having spent 2016 out on loan at Swinton Lions, scoring 20 tries in 22 appearances, he’s pretty much been a mainstay for the Cherry and Whites ever since.

He’s now got 137 Warriors tries in 164 appearances, and is another who’s won everything there is to win, popping up with many an important score in big games. The only surprise is he’s still not made an official England appearance.

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6. Joe Shorrocks

Joe Shorrocks
Joe Shorrocks walks out ahead of a Salford Red Devils game in 2024

Shorrocks hails from Billinge, and only departed his hometown club at the back end of last season having been a part of Matt Peet’s Grand Final-winning squad, crowned a Super League champion. Playing him in the halves isn’t conventional, but it’s a position he played in for Wigan and won man of the match in a Good Friday derby against Saints – that’s good enough for us!

The 24-year-old is now elsewhere in Super League with Salford, fast approaching the milestone of 100 senior career appearances overall, with 75 made for the Warriors between his debut in 2019 and departure in 2023. While with Wigan, he also featured on loan for London Skolars and Leigh Leopards.

DON’T MISS: From Preston North End and Lancashire Cricket Club to Super League – The brilliant backstory of Joe Shorrocks

7. George Williams

George Williams Warrington Wolves Alamy
George Williams celebrates a Warrington Wolves win in 2024

Another former Warrior, and another current Warrington star, takes our scrum half spot. Playing his junior rugby for Ince Rose Bridge and Wigan St Patricks, 29-year-old Williams joined the Warriors’ scholarship setup and was handed a four-year academy contract in 2011, going on to make a senior debut for his hometown club in 2013 aged 18.

The playmaker departed The Brick Community Stadium at the end of 2019 and gave the NRL a crack with Canberra Raiders, spending circa 18 months Down Under before returning to Super League with Warrington midway through 2021. Now the England skipper, Williams is closing in on 300 senior career appearances.

EXCLUSIVE: From imposter syndrome to England captain – How George Williams found his voice

8. Chris Hill

Chris Hill
Chris Hill in action for Huddersfield Giants in 2024

Hill – who played junior rugby for community club New Springs Lions – hasn’t always been the bruising prop we know him as today, spending time in Leigh’s academy as a half-back and a loose forward before eventually making his senior debut for the then-Centurions in 2005.

Another incredibly season pro, the 36-year-old England and Great Britain international was with Leigh until the end of the 2011 campaign when Warrington picked him up. At the Halliwell Jones Stadium for the next 10 seasons, he made the move to Huddersfield Giants ahead of the 2022 season and remains there today, approaching 550 senior career appearances.

9. Andy Ackers

Andy Ackers
Andy Ackers in action for Leeds Rhinos on Boxing Day 2023 in the ‘Wetherby Whaler’ challenge against Wakefield Trinity

Born on Christmas Day 1993, Golborne native Ackers played for both Golborne Parkside and Hindley in his youth, and spent time in the academies of both Wigan and Warrington before eventually making a breakthrough at Swinton Lions. Having turned 30 last year, the hooker now has over 250 senior career appearances to his name, and is closing in on 100 Super League games, too.

The two-time England international impressed in the shirts of London Broncos, Toronto Wolfpack and Salford, performing well enough in the colours of the latter to earn himself a lucrative move to Leeds alongside team-mate Brodie Croft. The exact fee paid for the pair by the Rhinos was never confirmed, but was the club’s highest for over 25 years.

10. Luke Thompson

Luke Thompson Wigan Warriors Alamy
Luke Thompson in action for Wigan

The England international was born and raised in Wigan, attending St Edmund Arrowsmith Catholic High School in Ashton. However, he came through the academy ranks at St Helens, having joined the club when he was just 11 from his community club Bold Miners.

Thompson won two Super League titles with Saints before heading to the NRL in 2020, spending four seasons with Canterbury Bulldogs. He returned to England with hometown club Wigan ahead of this season.

11. Junior Nsemba

Junior Nsemba
Wigan Warriors academy product Junior Nsemba scoring his first-ever Super League try

19-year-old Nsemba gets in this side, and to do so at his age is testament to just how highly we – like most – rate him. The teenager was born in Wigan after both of his parents emigrated to the town from Cameroon, and is a shining example of the talent being produced by the Warriors’ academy.

Debuting at senior level in 2022, he’s now made 25 appearances for his hometown club, seamlessly stepping up into a starting role this year following a serious injury to veteran Willie Isa. Big shoes to fill, but he’s certainly filled them. Nsemba – who scored his first Super League try against Leigh earlier this season – enjoyed three appearances out on loan for Whitehaven in 2023.

WARRIOR: Remember, remember, Junior Nsemba – Charting the rise of Wigan Warriors’ towering prospect

12. Liam Farrell (Captain)

Liam Farrell
Wigan Warriors captain Liam Farrell

The fifth and final current Warriors star in this line-up is the club’s skipper. Farrell is the type of player who deserves every bit of praise he gets, for his leadership, rugby league IQ, and all-round technical ability. Cherry and Whites boss Peet rightly uses the 33-year-old – and team-mate Marshall – as examples of academy products for the club’s current young crop to look up to.

Barring six matches on loan at Widnes Vikings back in 2010, every single senior appearance Farrell has ever made in the club game has been for Wigan – now sat on 365 with only Sean O’Loughlin having featured more often for the club in the Super League era. 16-time England international Farrell has won everything there is to win, and is our skipper, too.

MY PERFECT PLAYER: Liam Farrell builds perfect player with best tackler, quickest player and more key attributes

13. Ollie Partington

Ollie Partington Salford Red Devils Alamy
Salford Red Devils’ Ollie Partington celebrates a win in 2024

Rounding off our 13 of ‘Wiganers’, in at loose is a former Warrior in Partington, born in Billinge. The 25-year-old came through his hometown club’s academy system and debuted at first-team level in 2018. Featuring briefly on loan and dual-registration for London Skolars and Swinton, Partington accrued 92 senior appearances for the Cherry and Whites in total.

A one-time England Knights international, the forward’s final appearance for the Warriors – in August 2022 against Hull KR – was the 100th of his senior career overall. Eventually departing for Salford ahead of the 2023 season, Partington has gone on to make 30 appearances for the Red Devils to date.


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