When Jai Field first made the move to Wigan Warriors, games were still being played behind closed doors with the Coronavirus Pandemic’s effect still being felt across the country.
It was, of course, the same where he’d come from Down Under, but it meant that his first game in Cherry & White would be without any fans.
A few months prior, the Warriors had lost the 2020 Grand Final to bitter rivals St Helens behind closed doors, Jack Welsby unforgettably touching the ball down after the final hooter to win it, albeit in front of a soulless MKM Stadium in Hull rather than a packed-out Old Trafford.
Of course, Field’s Wigan debut – against Leigh, then-Centurions – didn’t go to plan. The full-back sustained a hamstring injury which would rule him out for five months. Not the start he wanted.
Despite that, almost three years on, the Warriors fans now don’t love many others more, and the feeling is mutual.
Wigan Warriors star Jai Field details love for club’s fans: ‘When they’re there in numbers, it does really drive you home’
Now 26, the Australian would make it back to play in three more games at the back end of a 2021 season which ultimately ended in disappointment, beaten on home soil by Leeds Rhinos in the play-off semi-finals.
A try in the Challenge Cup final bolstered Field’s cause the year after as the Warriors lifted silverware in the unfamiliar territory of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
And in 2023, the ultimate glory came. Field featured 25 times, scoring 19 tries across all competitions, as Matt Peet’s men marched to Old Trafford, picking up the League Leaders’ Shield along the way as they were crowned Super League champions.
For Field, who spoke exclusively to Love Rugby League at Wigan’s recent pre-2024 season media day, the club’s fans are ‘everything’, regardless of whether he’s asked that question on a day of glory or one of disappointment.
The overseas star told us: “The faith starts from the team and your coaches, but it’s with the fans too.
“They really do mean everything, a lot of people say that, but here I think that honestly is the case.
“You’re the people that they’re putting their time and money into coming and supporting every game.
“They put a lot of faith in you to go out there every week and perform, picking up results along the way.
“Some days when they come out, they’ll be in horrible conditions and travelling away to different games when they’re there in numbers, it does really drive you home.”
Field explains why support matters more in Super League than the NRL with comparisons made
Coming through the ranks, he would feature in 11 top flight games for St George, with six NRL appearances for Parramatta Eels to his name as well.
Field’s senior experience Down Under is a lot less than some, but the speedster saw enough to be able to make a comparison to how club’s are supported in Australia to those in this country, and says there really is no comparison at all.
The Warriors ace – who is of Wiradjuri & Irish descent – added: “It’s a lot different here, and that’s in a better way. You can’t really compare Australia to here.
“In Australia, there’s maybe five teams in Queensland and eight in Sydney. Kids can grow up and go for anyone. They tend to pick a player they like and pick that team (they play for).
“Here, if you’re brought up in a town, like Wigan or St Helens, then that’s the club you go for. I think that’s why they (fans) are so loyal.
“They travel around and there’s plenty of rivalry everywhere, so the atmosphere vastly outweighs Australia.
“It’s really enjoyable playing over here, and they are a big part of that.”