Wigan legend Sean O’Loughlin to retire after stellar 19-year career

Wigan captain Sean O’Loughlin has announced he is to call time on his illustrious 19-year career.

The one-club former England skipper, who made his debut for his hometown club in April 2002, is hoping to add two more appearances to the 457 he has already made for the Warriors before hanging up his boots and joining their coaching staff.

O’Loughlin, who has made only six appearances this season, is targeting a return to the Wigan team for next Thursday’s Super League play-off semi-final against Hull before celebrating his 38th birthday five days later. The Grand Final is on November 27.

O’Loughlin said: “I’ve always known it would be a difficult decision because it’s something you love doing. To not be able to do that going forward is pretty difficult to take.

“I’ve loved every minute of it. Even seasons when we’ve not won trophies, I’ve enjoyed playing. The reason you start playing as a kid is because you enjoy it and I don’t think I’ve ever lost that enjoyment.

“It’s got more difficult as you get older but the enjoyment is still there.

“We’ve got two games left so for me it’s been all about getting back and ready for that. When Lammy (coach Adrian Lam) puts a team out on the pitch, hopefully I can be a part of that.”

O’Loughlin, brother-in-law of another illustrious Wigan loose forward Andy Farrell and uncle of England rugby union captain Owen Farrell, was made Wigan captain at the age of 24 in 2006 and led them to the first of 10 major trophies four years later.

His medal haul comprises a World Club Challenge, four Super League titles, two Challenge Cups and three League Leaders’ Shields and he was named in the Super League Dream Team a record seven times.

Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan, who says the player will be entered into the club’s Hall of Fame, added: “Sean O’Loughlin will go down as one of the greatest players to have represented Wigan Warriors Rugby League Club.

“Sean has played his entire rugby league career at Wigan and sits seventh on the all-time Wigan appearances-made list. His leadership qualities and loyalty are legendary.

“To spend 19 years at his hometown club and claim the honours he has won underpins what he is all about. He is a true Wiganer, an outstanding Warrior and a born winner.”

O’Loughlin won 11 caps for Great Britain from 2004-7 and 25 for England, including 14 as captain.

England coach Shaun Wane, who was O’Loughlin’s head coach at Wigan from 2012-18, said: “Sean O’Loughlin is the most special player I’ve ever coached.

“I’ve coached great players but he’s the stand-out. Everything I’ve won in my career has been with Lockers by my side – and I don’t think I’d have won as much if he hadn’t been there.

“And as good as he’s been a player, he’s an even better man. You couldn’t meet anyone more genuine or more humble.

“I feel personally wounded for him that his career is ending without a crowd to salute him. He deserves that – but it won’t take away from all he’s achieved.”

Rugby Football League chief executive Ralph Rimmer said: “Sean O’Loughlin has been an outstanding player for Wigan, England and Great Britain and also an outstanding ambassador for the sport of rugby league.

“He has integrity running right through him and a genuine commitment to the grassroots of the sport.

“With James Graham having also confirmed that he will be retiring at the end of the Betfred Super League season, we will be witnessing the last performances of two giants of the modern game.”

Listen to The Final Hooter podcast, featuring exclusive interviews, every week. SUBSCRIBE to Love Rugby League on Apple Podcasts.