From Preston North End and Lancashire Cricket Club to Super League: The brilliant backstory of Joe Shorrocks

Drew Darbyshire
Joe Shorrocks Alamy

Joe Shorrocks has joined Salford Red Devils on a three-year deal ahead of the 2024 season (Alamy)

Footballer, cricketer, rugby league player. It’s fair to say Salford Red Devils new boy Joe Shorrocks is a jack of all trades, and a very talented athlete indeed.

Most readers of this article will know Shorrocks as the professional rugby league player, honing his craft at hometown club Wigan Warriors before making an off-season switch down the East Lancs to Salford Red Devils.

But his backstory and journey to get to where he is now is fascinating, and one worth sharing.

Shorrocks was kicking a football around and playing cricket from as early as he can remember – two sports in which he quickly discovered he was pretty good at.

The Wiganer was in the youth set-up at Preston North End FC for several years, and even spent a year on the books at Lancashire County Cricket Club.

It was only when he became a teenager when he first picked up a rugby ball, which was at school, before then going down to play at his local community club Wigan St Patricks.

“I played cricket and football alongside each other until I was about 13 and then I started playing rugby at school,” Shorrocks tells Love Rugby League in an exclusive interview. “I wanted to try it outside of school but obviously I had cricket and football most nights so it was just about where I could fit it in.

“Some days I was training at football and the next day I was playing rugby and then I got offered a scholarship at Wigan (Warriors), so it was either move to Preston and go to college up there and get a scholarship at Preston or take the scholarship at Wigan, and obviously I chose rugby.”

He had three sports in which he could potentially make a career out of, so what was the deciding factor? Simply put: his love and enjoyment for rugby league.

“I was going up to Preston three or four times a week training and I wasn’t really enjoying it,” Shorrocks said.

“Down at St Pats it was just my mates from school and I was loving it so I got offered that scholarship (at Wigan) and I was thinking ‘it’s very hard to make it at football, especially if you want to be in the Premier League or Championship, it’s very hard’ so I chose rugby. I didn’t know whether I’d make it, obviously I was having more fun (in rugby) at the time but I’m glad that I chose it.”

Shorrocks, who has joined Salford on a three-year deal from Wigan, will this year play alongside Red Devils full-back Ryan Brierley, who is a huge North End fan and regularly attends matches at Deepdale.

“I don’t think he actually thinks that I used to play at Preston but I definitely did, so I’m going to make sure after this interview that he knows!” Shorrocks laughed.

“I know he’s a massive Preston fan, I see him in his Preston tracksuit all the time so I’m going to tell him after this.”

Joe Shorrocks opens up on Wigan Warriors departure and how his move to Salford Red Devils came around

Joe Shorrocks Wigan Warriors Alamy Joe Shorrocks has joined Salford on three-year deal from Wigan (Alamy)

After progressing through the academy ranks at hometown club Wigan, Shorrocks was rewarded with his first team debut in 2019 by then head coach Adrian Lam.

The utility forward would go on to make 75 appearances for the Warriors over the course of five seasons, being part of Matt Peet‘s squad that won the Challenge Cup in 2022 and the Super League title last year.

Speaking to Love Rugby League, Shorrocks said he decided to make the move away from his boyhood club to seek regular game time – something in which Wigan couldn’t guarantee in the immediate future – and was sold on Salford pretty much straight after having initial talks.

“At the end of last year at Wigan I wasn’t playing as much as I wanted to,” he explained. “After I got sent off in the Challenge Cup (semi-final defeat to Hull KR) I think I only played one game for the rest of the season.

“I wasn’t playing as much as I wanted to so I spoke to my family and my agent about what I wanted to do and then I asked Matty (Peet) could I leave and at first he was like ‘I don’t want you to leave’ but I think as time went on and my agent spoke to him he kind of saw it from my point of view. I didn’t want to sit behind anyone for another year, I wanted to play now.

“And then obviously as soon as I met Bleasey (Ian Blease, director of rugby and operations) and Rowls (Paul Rowley, head coach) about coming to Salford, I spoke to a few of the lads like Singo (Brad Singleton) and P (Ollie Partington), then I was convinced straight away that I wanted to come here.

“The way that Paul and Bleasey sold it to me, I think their style of play goes hand in hand with the way I want to play and then it was only really one team in it for me and that was Salford, so that’s how it came about.”

Shorrocks is well-known for the utility value he brings, having played loose forward, back-row, hooker, centre and half-back during his time in the Wigan first team – even producing a man of the match display in their Good Friday win last year in his first time playing at stand-off.

But the former England Academy international wants to cement himself as a ball-playing loose forward with the Red Devils in 2024.

“I definitely want to nail down playing loose forward but nothing is ever guaranteed,” he admits. “If there is one week where I need to fill in somewhere then I’ll definitely do that for the team but as far as I’m concerned I want to nail down that loose forward role.

“I think my game goes hand in hand with how Rowls wants to play here, ball-playing is something we’re really keen on here.

“I didn’t see what it was all about before I joined but now I’ve joined there is definitely a method to the madness if you like. It’s something we’re really excited about as a team and something that we really want to push going through the season.”

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