2012 will see Wigan’s Sean O’Loughlin celebrate his testimonial with the club after 10 years loyal service.
The loose forward made his first team debut for the side back in 2002 under Stuart Raper where he was primarily acted as an interchange. His versatility saw him cover many positions on the pitch before finding his most favoured position of loose forward.
His first tries for the club came as an interchange against Warrington Wolves which saw him rewarded with his first starting appearance for the Warriors, again, against Warrington in a 16-41 away victory.
When O’Loughlin told Love Rugby League what attracted him to Wigan, he said: “I was born near Wigan, it was a natural progression for me to play for Wigan.
“I always wanted to play for them and it was all about progressing through the system and breaking into the first team. When I walked onto the pitch the first time, it was like a dream.”
Since then he has featured heavily for the Cherry and Whites, playing alongside his cousin Andy Farrell until his dual code switch and becoming the clubs longest serving player having made over 250 appearances.
The Wigan local has had many highs and lows during his time at the Warriors. To become a mainstay figure in the England team is no mean feat as well as lifting both the Challenge Cup in 2011 and the Grand Final Trophy in 2010 as Club Captain.
But on the other side of the coin, he has witnessed numerous head coaches come and go, captained a Wigan side that starred relegation in the face , and encountered costly injuries which saw him miss out on big international tournaments.
The 29 year old talked about the changes he has seen over the years at Wigan.
He said, “Lots of things have changed. Five different coaches in the first few seasons, but a lot more stability with the new chairman and owners as they have managed off the field matters very well.
“The youth set up has grown considerably and contributed to the first team well. In my mind the youth team is a key factor in Super League as well as the ability to keep hold of them and develop them.”
Putting those aside, O’Loughlin has grown into a natural leader who can play in a variety of positions. With a good pair of hands, he possesses a smart kicking game and is always up there as being one of Wigan’s top tacklers.
The loose forward praised those that have got him to this point in his career. He said: “Andy Farrell and Kris Radlinski have helped me develop so much, playing with brilliant players and top internationals has seen me mature.”
This season his side are topping the league by three points, coincidentally, to Warrington, and they are playing some of the best rugby for years.
When asked about what their winning formula was and who has stood out, he said: “Everyone is really enjoying playing alongside each other, we are doing it for each other, defending well and hungry to get better and improve. Sam Tomkins is definitely a special player. Brett Finch, Thomas Leuluai and Michael Mcllorum are all on top form as well.”
As the season is reaching its climax, Wigan’s Club Captain knows the team need to stick at it and see it out.
He said: “We need to keep enjoying the football and playing as we are. We will come up against stiff competition and hopefully we can keep the good form going till the end of the year.”
For O’Loughlin, if his side can complete the double this season, then it will be a nice way to celebrate a decade of commitment to Wigan Warriors.