THE tiniest and most delicate of artistic tributes has been paid to a Wigan icon of the toughest of sports.
For Man of Steel Sam Tomkins is now immortalised in pencil lead.
The Warriors star is the latest subject of that extraordinary sculptor of microscopic miniatures, Hedley Wiggan.
The Wigan Infirmary nurse has painstakingly crafted a full-length image of the prolific full-back, complete with a rugby ball clutched under his arm.
Using the now customary tools of a pin, scalpel and jeweller’s eyepiece, Hedley spent the best part of a month carving the image onto the tip of an HB pencil.
Its “unveiling” couldn’t be better timed, given that Wigan Warriors this week stand just 80 minutes from a trip to Wembley after thrashing Widnes Vikings in the Challenge Cup quarter-final on Monday.
Tomkins joins a veritable Madame Tussauds collection of diminutive graphite notables ranging from Marilyn Monroe and The Beatles to Lord Coe and Marie Antoinette (who managed not to lose her head during carving).
The steady-handed 47-year-old recently appeared on the Channel Four art and antiques valuation show Four Rooms and was offered upwards of £1,000 for one of his minuscule works.
Since then he says that offers of work have begun to come in. The other day he sold his carbon take on the Venus de Milo for £700 to a man in Kent and there is also hope of work in America.
Hedley said: “The sculpting is taking up more and more time at the moment and I’m always looking around for new ideas.
“I like rugby and have gone to quite a few matches. That’s what started this latest work which began as simply a rugby player and then someone pointed out that it looked a bit like Sam Tomkins.
“The trickiest bit was getting the gap between the legs.”
Hedley is now planning on auctioning the piece for the Joining Jack charity - set up, of course, by former Warriors player Andy Johnson to help research into the condition Duchenne muscular dystrophy which affects his son Jack.
Details of the sale will be announced at a later date.