TALKING SPORT - Sadness, sure, but a lot of pride too

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OFTEN, greatness is not fully recognised at the time.

But in Sam Tomkins’ case, we don’t need hindsight to realise just how good he is.

He’s been Super League’s most marketable star since the likes of Offiah and Robinson, and the most exciting player of his generation.

I’ve reported on most of his performances, and still find it hard to fully convey his 
ability to break open a game with an act of audacity or burst of speed, or light up even the dullest of matches with a sprinkling of stardust.

He did it with five tries on his debut back in 2008, he once scored a try while knocked out at Bradford and in a Test match at Wembley in 2011 he produced “one of the best individual performances I’ve seen against the Australia Test team”, according to Leeds coach Brian McDermott.

He’s more than a try-scoring machine, much more than a box of tricks.

And all his eye-catching displays have been carried out with terrier-like tenacity and a bravery which defies his slight, ridiculously over-tattooed, body.

Interestingly, Dean Bell used to think he’d be too small to make it.

Now his club has just paid a world record transfer fee to sign him for three years. From a selfish point of view, there’s sadness.

We know his reasons why, we know his replacement Matty Bowen is a quality player, and we know the future is bright. But of course there’s 
sadness.

Next year, though, I imagine the feeling will have made way for one of complete pride, as fans wait with interest to see if he can make the same impact on the NRL as he’s made over here. He’s been a credit to Wigan, on and off the pitch, and in a chest-thumping way it’ll be good to see the country’s unofficial capital of sport represented in New Zealand in 2014.

Sam, of course, is not the only one making a Wigan farewell from the DW on Friday night.

Lee Mossop is heading to Parramatta – though on a ‘return ticket’ arrangement which may or may not see him play for the club again – while Pat Richards is ending his eight-year association, during which time he has built his legacy by breaking points-scoring records. The debate about the club’s best overseas signing will never be settled, because it’s subjective. But few would argue that Richards is among the greatest to grace the Cherry and White.

Considering the company he is, there is no bigger compliment.

A champion off the field as well as on it, I hope fans pile into the DW on Friday to show their appreciation to Pat, and Sam and Lee, for what they have done.

Games between Wigan and Leeds are rarely dull, often epic, and with a Grand Final spot up for grabs the intensity should be ferocious.

Whatever the result, it promises to be a night to remember.

It was another “pinch yourself” moment for Latics fans last Thursday.

Around 2,500 supporters made their way to Belgium for the club’s first ever Europa League game.

The pictures of blue and white all over Bruges city centre was unreal ,and one to be proud of.

Many have told me those supporters did themselves proud, singing all day long and behaving impeccably.

The result was a good one too.

A draw away from home in European competition is one to be proud of, especially when it was followed by a hugely satisfying 2-0 home win.