My Ultimate Team: Joel Tomkins names his greatest 1-17 from players he played alongside

Drew Darbyshire
Joel Tomkins ultimate team Alamy

My Ultimate Team is a new feature coming to Love Rugby League this year, with dual-code international Joel Tomkins our first guest.

Tomkins enjoyed a decorated career, winning two Super League titles, a World Club Challenge, a League Leaders’ Shield and a Challenge Cup with Wigan.

The 36-year-old represented England in both rugby league and rugby union, having spent three years at Saracens between 2011 and 2014. Speaking exclusively to Love Rugby League, Tomkins named his ultimate 1-17 of players he played alongside during his playing career…

1. Sam Tomkins

Sam Tomkins Wigan Warriors Alamy

It’d have to be Sam at full-back. I think 2010 through to 2013, probably before he went to the NRL. I am probably biased because he’s my brother but for me, that few years, I think he was the best player in the Super League era in those few years, especially as a back. It’s hard to compare backs and forwards, Lockers (Sean O’Loughlin) has probably been the best forward in the game for me but Sam as a back in that era, was outstanding.

2. Tom Davies

Tom Davies Catalans Dragons Alamy

Tom probably wouldn’t mind me saying this but if you looked at Tom at 12 or 13 or even coming through at scholarship, and I’ve used him as an example with some of the scholarship lads I’m coaching now. He never had as much talent as most of the other backs in that team, but I have never seen anyone train as hard as Tom Davies. He has maximised his potential, he has taken what he’s got and timesed it by 100. He will always be the fittest person in the team and he’s going to be willing to carry the ball every single set for you and he’s made a career out of carrying the ball and scoring tries. For me, what he has achieved is mind-blowing.

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3. Brad Barritt

Brad Barritt Saracens Alamy

I’m going to chuck a rugby union player in there, I’ll put Brad Barritt in. I played with him at Saracens and he’s probably the one person who I thought could have made it in rugby league, there’s a couple actually. Rugby league fans probably won’t even know he is, but he’s of South African heritage and played for England but when I joined Saracens I went not really knowing what to expect but when I saw how he trained… He was the inside centre and I was the outside centre, and I just thought ‘there are some tough buggers here’. He is a top bloke but a really, really good player. The toughness in him, the way he carried the ball, his willingness to defend, repeat efforts – he just had a lot of what I think a top rugby league player would have, so I’d have him in there.

4. George Carmont

George Carmont Wigan Warriors Alamy

So humble. As good as a rugby player he was, I think everybody who played with him would say he’s an even better bloke. Genuinely, he’s one of the only people I’ve ever met who people haven’t had a bad word to say against him and I think that goes a long way. I think if you did an interview with him, he wouldn’t put himself in anyone’s ultimate 13, but he’s a legend of a guy.

5. Pat Richards

Pat Richards Wigan Warriors Alamy

We had a culture meeting the other day and Matty said ‘when you think of a Wigan player, who do you think of?’ and a few of the guys said the obvious ones like Lockers (Sean O’Loughlin), Andy Farrell and Kris Radlinski but I said Pat. He’s obviously not from Wigan and had never even been to the club before he arrived but what he achieved over the seven or eight years that he was here, he’s a proper Wigan legend. He bought into the town and the culture, his kids were brought up here and he still makes time to come over, so for me he’s a proper Wigan legend.

6. Owen Farrell

Owen Farrell England Rugby Alamy

I could’ve said Trent Barrett because he was quality when he was here but I didn’t play that much with him so I’ll chuck another rugby union one in and I’ll put Owen Farrell in there. I’d love to see him in a Wigan jersey, even if it was just one year at the end of his career… He might have the 13 on I don’t know, but I could see him in a six jersey, me.

Similar to what I said about Brad Barritt, I think what he does… Even more so early on in his career, he looked a bit more like a rugby league player in a rugby union team. I’ve never seen anyone as dedicated in my life. When I talk about Tom Davies being dedicated to his conditioning and his strength and maximising what he had… Owen with his kicking, there’s a few people I can mention for that… Charlie Hodgson the same, Richard Wigglesworth the same. When I went playing rugby union I was so impressed with the detail in the kicking and the hours (they put in). Owen Farrell, Charlie Hodgson and Richard Wigglesworth would be on the field for two hours after training kicking, and the other lads had showered and gone home!

7. Tommy Leuluai

Tommy Leuluai Wigan Warriors Alamy

Tommy is definitely in there, a ridiculous player. He’s probably in the same category as Pat for me, he’s not born and bred in Wigan but he is a Wigan legend. He’s up there with Lockers and Faz for me. He’s just so humble and down to earth, you wouldn’t know he’d won a World Cup, Lance Todd, Grand Final and Challenge Cup if you had a coffee with him. He just wants to talk about life and kids, so he’s an absolute legend of a bloke.

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8. Andy Coley

Andy Coley Wigan Warriors Alamy

Consistent. Extremely underrated. Absolute top person and a really good player. In 2010 when hadn’t won a trophy for a number of years and Madge (Michael Maguire) came in and we won, we had a really old middle squad with Andy Coley and Stuart Fielden – and they were the backbone to that team. I think Coles was over 30, but what him and Stuart Fielden achieved that year, being strapped up for games with physio tape was just outstanding.

9. Micky McIlorum

Micky McIlorum Catalans Dragons Alamy

Just absolutely class. Purely mental toughness is how he carries on. People ask ‘how does Micky still do it?’ – just mental toughness. I’ve played games with him where you see 110 kilo blokes scanning the line for Micky and then running the other way! They’d rather run into Lockers, Jeff Lima and Stuart Fielden who are 20 kilos lighter – but that’s what makes him. In 2013 I wasn’t here but when Wigan did the double, him and Sam (Tomkins) were unbelievable. He’s probably the number one on anyone’s teamsheet… Who do you want on your team in the last 10 minutes of a Grand Final? Micky is probably the man.

10. Stuart Fielden

Stuart Fielden Wigan Warriors Alamy

What he did when came to this club… I remember he first came in with Brian Noble, he basically kept us up himself. When he first came to the club in his first week, Nobby named the team and what he was going to do with his subs. He was like ‘Stu will play 80 and we’ll be expecting like 20 carries and 50 tackles’ and Stu did it in the game, and my mind was blown. He was like 110 kilos at the time! He was hard as nails, a really tough bloke.

11. Gareth Hock

Gareth Hock Wigan Warriors Alamy

I don’t know if his career went quite as it should and I only played with him early in my career, but Gaz Hock. Purely talent-wise, me growing up seeing him purely as a player, (he was) the best back-rower.

The way he carried the ball, what he could do… When I started playing I kind of used to play a bit like him – but nowhere near as good. When Gaz had the ball and was carrying you could see the fear in peoples eyes. I thought he was amazing as a player. I think purely looking at him as a player, what a player he was. I think he should’ve achieved more in his career but pure talent-wise, what a player he was.

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12. Liam Farrell

Liam Farrell Wigan Warriors Alamy

He is a legend. Probably similar to Tom Davies, look at the size of Faz, he’s not a big back-rower but he’s fit, he plays 80 minutes every week and takes 20 carries every week. He’s just solid and consistent. How many times has he been in the Dream Team? That just shows his consistency.

13. Sean O’Loughlin

Sean O'Loughlin Wigan Warriors Alamy

Lockers for obvious reasons. He got the captaincy at 23 or 24 and was being compared to Andy Farrell for probably the first five or six years of that until 2010 when he won a Grand Final. It’s amazing that from that pressure he has overtaken him and now Lockers is the club legend above Andy Farrell and Ellery Hanley, for me. That Wigan 13 is probably the most famous jersey isn’t it? You think of Hanley and Farrell and now you think of Lockers. For me, he is the best player to have played for this club and I think most people would probably say the same.

Bench

14. Danny McGuire

Danny McGuire Hull KR Alamy

I did play with him at Hull KR after spending years of playing against him for Wigan against Leeds, where there was a massive rivalry. Sometimes you build something up in your head and you start to dislike people on the field but when I left Wigan to sign for Hull KR, it really taught me a lesson because I went to Hull KR and I really, really liked Danny and got on with him. It made me realise it’s just a game isn’t it? The way I played the game, most people didn’t like me, but it’s only ever on the field. As soon as you come off the field that’s all gone. When I signed for Hull KR and I met Danny McGuire, I thought ‘what a legend’ – a top player and a top bloke.

15. Harrison Hansen

Harrison Hansen Wigan Warriors Alamy

Tough as old boots. He’s older than me and he’s still playing! Just an absolute beast.

16. Iafeta Paleaaesina

Iafeta Paleaaesina Wigan Warriors Alamy

I’ve got to have Feka on the bench, smashing holes from kick off and running through people! I remember they’d kick it off to him and I’d be cringing looking at it thinking ‘how are you supposed to tackle him?’. He was amazing and a fan favourite.

17. Ben Garcia

Ben Garcia Catalans Dragons Alamy

He’s done so well for Catalans and he’s loyal – he’s going to be their Lockers. He will play there probably his whole career, but he’s been a massive part of what that club has achieved. He is so consistent, what a player.

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