Shaun Wane fittingly bowed out of his time at Wigan as a Grand Final winner – but rugby league has lost an absolute diamond.
Wane steered the Warriors to victory in the 2018 Super League Grand Final as they beat neighbours Warrington Wolves 12-4 in his last ever game as head coach of the Cherry and Whites.
Whether you love him or loathe him, surely you have respect for what he has done – not only for his hometown club Wigan – but for rugby league in general.
The 54-year-old has had a 30-year association with Wigan. He played almost 150 games for the club between 1982 and 1990, where he also picked up two caps for Great Britain.
And he has become a national treasure in the old mill town and coal mining district since he took over the head coaching role from Michael Maguire back in 2011.
He has coached 238 games in eight seasons at the Warriors, winning 161 of them and having a 68% winning record.
In his time in charge, Wane has guided Wigan to three Grand Finals, a Challenge Cup, a World Club Challenge and a League Leaders’ Shield.
Seven major trophies in eight years is an incredible achievement and he should be remembered fondly for that.
His presence in and around the Lancashire town is huge. He has an aura around the club’s training ground at Orrell like no-one else has had before.
Wane’s influence on the players is nothing short of inspirational. He doesn’t just turn young players into rugby league superstars, he also turns them into good human beings.
Like a lot of kids in Wigan, they grow up supporting the Warriors and that’s what I did. I had a season ticket from as early as I can remember and although I remember the likes of Brian Noble, Ian Millward, Denis Betts, Mike Gregory, etc. It is Wane who stands above the rest.
Wane stands out purely because of his passion, drive and burning ambition to make the club the best it can possibly be.
The former Leeds and Workington front-rower will now leave rugby league and join Scotland rugby union in a high-performance consultancy role.
Whether it is his decision or not, rugby league should have busted its gut to persuade him to stay in the 13-aside code. Rugby league has lost a gem, and like we have seen so many times before, rugby union is picking up that gem.
Let’s hope that Wane isn’t out of the game for too long. He’s always said he would love to coach England or Great Britain, so could he take over Wayne Bennett when the time comes, perhaps?
Put it this way, he would certainly install passion, belief and heart into the team.
In recent weeks, a lot of people who follow other clubs have shown their support and admiration for Wane, which is a rarity in sport these days. Wane has earned respect from rival fans and that just shows how good of a job he has done at the Warriors.
And now as a member of the media, it has been a privilege to chat with him on a regular basis and listen him take so passionately about the sport.
Win or lose, Wane was always honest in his interviews and he will be sorely missed from our game, ‘no question’ – as he would say.