Talking RL: Why stats don’t do justice to McIlorum’s impact

Micky McIlorum in the 2015 Grand Final
Micky McIlorum in the 2015 Grand Final

It’s one of my favourite Wigan rugby stories.

At half-time, John Monie was going through the tackle-count list, and praising players with high-stats.

He has brought a quality impossible to measure – an ability to rattle the toughest of opponents

Then he reached Ged Byrne, noticed the inactivity, and told the likeable utility he hadn’t made many tackles.

Ged digested the news, stood up and cooly replied: “Would you want to run at me?”

Like all good fishing stories, it may have been embellished over the years.

But that tale popped into my head this morning when I was thinking about how best to pay tribute to Micky McIlorum ahead of his testimonial game. Because in 10 years at the club, he has clocked up 218 appearances and scored 22 tries.

He’s won two of everything – Challenge Cups, Grand Finals and League Leaders’ Shields.

He’s even played for two countries, Ireland and England, in two World Cups.

And yet numbers don’t begin to do justice to his impact at the club.

Some hookers – good hookers, too – earn plenty of plaudits for topping tackle counts.

But McIlorum is a player who opponents run away from!

“I know fans regard Micky highly,” said Adrian Morley, a player who knows a thing or two about confrontations. “Believe me, players rate him even higher, because they know how hard he hits.”

Many more have been equally whole-hearted in their praise.

He has brought energy and aggression to the Wigan side, as well as a quality impossible to measure – an ability to rattle the toughest of opponents. Many players just don’t seem to have the same impact when they’re playing against McIlorum.

It’s why Sam Tomkins rates him as the toughest player he has ever come across.

Why his team-mates love playing alongside him.

Why George Carmont flew halfway across the world this week to show his respect.

And how good would it be to see the classy former centre back in a Wigan shirt?!

Let’s hope he gets the chance.

Either way, there are plenty of reasons to get to Leigh on Sunday.

It’s Wigan only senior friendly on English soil.

It’s their first match since the Grand Final.

It’s a chance to see Leigh in action for the first time since their promotion.

It’s a chance to see recruits Morgan Escare, Romain Navarrete, Thomas Leuluai and Liam Forsythe in action.

And above all, it’s a great way to say ‘thank you’ to Micky McIlorum.