Wigan Warriors hooker Brad O’Neill will achieve a childhood dream on Saturday when he walks out of the tunnel in the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford, having watched his boyhood club on several occasions there.
O’Neill grew up a Wigan fan and attended his first Grand Final in 2010 as an eight-year-old when the Warriors beat rivals St Helens at the Theatre of Dreams.
Now Catalans Dragons duo Sam Tomkins and Michael McIlorum were in the triumphant Wigan side that day, with the former being one of O’Neill’s favourite players growing up.
O’Neill’s dreams will come true on Saturday when he walks onto the Old Trafford pitch in front of an army of his family and friends.
“I’m very excited, obviously it’s my first Grand Final, but I’m not too nervous yet, it’s still early in the week but I’m very excited,” O’Neill told Love Rugby League.
“I went to them all (finals). As a kid growing up I went to all the Wigan games.
“2010 would have been my first Grand Final. It’s a bit surreal. It was 13 years ago now, I remember it was against Saints and it was the year Terry Newton passed away.
“It’s going to be unreal playing at Old Trafford, I’m very excited.
“It’s going to be surreal for myself, it’s what dreams are made of.
“I think there’s about 15 or 20 of my family coming and there’ll be friends there as well who have got their own tickets. I think everyone will be going!”
Brad O’Neill flourishing under mentorship of Matt Peet
O’Neill played his junior rugby for Widnes-based Halton Farnworth Hornets before joining Wigan’s scholarship system when he was 15.
Current head coach Matt Peet was head of youth at the Warriors at the time of O’Neill’s arrival.
“I’ve know Matty a long time,” O’Neill added.
“He was head of youth when I was signing on in the scholarship.
“He’s a really good coach and he knows what he’s doing.
“He’s a great mentor on and off the field and is a really good role model.”
O’Neill has enjoyed a breakthrough season, making 26 appearances to help Wigan win the League Leaders’ Shield as well as being nominated for Super League’s Young Player of the Year award.