Catalans Dragons ace Sam Tomkins will bow out of the game at Old Trafford on Saturday evening, facing Wigan Warriors in the a showdown between two clubs he’s held in very high esteem by, though boss Steve McNamara revealed he may never have got that moment but for some deep conversations earlier in the year.
The former England skipper, who made 213 appearances for Wigan over two stints sandwiched by time in the NRL, will make his 104th and final Dragons appearance at the Theatre of Dreams.
He came up clutch in the dying embers of their semi-final with St Helens on Friday night to dive over for the winning try, executing the ‘Tomkins trot’ celebration and revelling in the glory of further cementing his cult hero status in Perpignan.
34-year-old Tomkins’ injury issues with his knee have been well documented, and in truth are cutting short a career which probably could have gone on for a few more years. But given what McNamara revealed in today’s press conference, the game should be glad it’s been able to see the Milton-Keynes born ace stick around in it for as long as he has.
‘He was going to retire earlier in the season’
Speaking about his captain’s impact, the French outfit’s head coach told Love Rugby League: “He was going to retire earlier in the season.
“He came in the office, and he didn’t think he could potentially carry on at that stage.
“We had a good chat and calmed him down, and thankfully found some solutions for his knee.
“We put him in the position where he could play, the plan was to certainly play him a little bit less at the back end of the year than we did, but when we lost those couple of games we had to really dig in and put our best team out there.
“He’s managed that knee superbly well, and it’s hard to say he’s in career-best form, but he’s not far from it.
“What he was prepared to do at the start of the season when the thought he couldn’t contribute was to hold his hand up and say that.”
Sam Tomkins hailed for playing through the pain barrier in final season
Tomkins made the move to the South of France ahead of the 2019 season, playing a big part in their League Leaders’ Shield triumph come 2021, eventually losing out at Old Trafford that year to St Helens.
The veteran has already said if they can go one better this year, it will be the ‘best trophy’ he’s won in an illustrious career.
Dragons boss McNamara added: “It’s a tough period of time for Sam, but as a coach you’ve got a squad of about 30 and you treat them like your kids, they’re like family.
“Some of these senior boys, at certain stages, you think they’re okay and they don’t need that much attention like your oldest kids, but they all need it.
“Sam’s gone through a period where it was extremely tough for him, and like I said, we managed to help him find a way through it.
“He had a little bit of time where he couldn’t find a way to get it correct, but he’s come back strong.
“He’ll fight his way through any pain barrier, but at the same time he’s not afraid to stick his hand up and say ‘I can’t contribute anymore’. That’s a credit to him.”