Australian star Kaide Ellis lifts lid on pressure of wearing Wigan Warriors’ #13

Ben Olawumi
Kaide Ellis

Wigan Warriors' #13 Kaide Ellis celebrates their Challenge Cup semi-final win against Hull KR in 2024

Kaide Ellis admits the pressure which came with wearing Wigan Warriors’ number 13 is something he’s had to adapt to alongside learning the tactical nuances of a switch to the loose forward position.

The Australian, who featured 27 times in the NRL between Penrith Panthers & St George Illawarra Dragons, joined Wigan ahead of the 2022 season, Matt Peet’s first in charge.

Handed the #15 shirt originally, Ellis has so far made 62 appearances for the Warriors, winning everything there is to win in the domestic game over here as well as the World Club Challenge, beating former employers Penrith back in February.

His 63rd game will come at Wembley on Saturday afternoon when Wigan go up against Warrington Wolves in the Challenge Cup final.

Having already lifted the cup in 2022 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Ellis – like many of his team-mates – could become a multiple-time winner of the competition with success under the arch.

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Australian star Kaide Ellis lifts lid on pressure of wearing Wigan Warriors’ #13

His role in the 2022 final, as it was up until this season, was to come off the bench and slot into the front row.

A prop by trade, Ellis has taken on the loose forward position this term following the departure of young gun Morgan Smithies, who departed for the NRL and Canberra Raiders after last autumn’s Grand Final triumph against Catalans Dragons.

Alongside that role, he’s been handed the traditional #13 shirt, a number donned by many Warriors club legends over the years, including now-assistant Sean O’Loughlin, Ellery Hanley & Andy Farrell.

Detailing the pressures of the number, Ellis said: “At the back end of last year, internally, we all knew Morgan (Smithies) wasn’t going to be here this season, so in my mind, I was just thinking, ‘I wouldn’t mind putting my hand up for that shirt’.

“I didn’t expect the 13 itself, because I know how big it is, and I’ve only been here for two years as well. I thought it might go to someone locally, like a local junior, and maybe I’d still play that role.

“To get both (the shirt and the role), it was very special, and I knew what it meant before I got it. Getting it, I just want to do the jersey proud.”

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‘I feel it’s somewhere I can really take my performances to the next level’

21 of Ellis’ appearances for the Warriors prior to this season had come as an interchange, utilised off the bench. But since his move into the loose role, every one of his 14 this year has come as a starter.

As he now gears up for a first appearance at Wembley, the Dubbo-born ace has detailed how he’s already seen progress in his own game from the start of the season, only missing two games to date this term – one through suspension and one in which he acted as an unused 18th man.

The 27-year-old continued: “The role is something I’ve grown into.

“I’ve always been alright with the ball, but playing that middle link role week in, week out is something that I’ve really enjoyed and I feel it’s somewhere I can really take my performances to the next level.

“It’s the link between Harry (Smith) and Bevan (French), but they’ve been really good with it as well. I just give it to them and they make you look good!

“I still want to play like a front-rower, running the ball in and things like that, but now I know I can run with the ball and flick it out the back or pass to someone else.

“I’m still trying to get it right, early on I was probably a bit ball-playing too much and not really taking the line on, but just doing it week-to-week is a good thing.

“I’m still learning, I’ve got a lot of good people around me on the field, and then I’ve got Lockers (O’Loughlin) who wore that jersey for 20-odd years.

“I just want to take my game to the next level.”

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