Sam Powell will mark a special personal milestone as he aims to help Wigan land the World Club Challenge title.
The 24-year-old is set to play his 100th game for his hometown club.
He said: “I only found out last week I was closing in on a 100 games, it’s a big milestone and it would make it special if we could win.
“It doesn’t seem long since my debut, but I’m obviously getting on a bit now. We’ve got a young team, I’m not a senior player but I’m there stuck in the middle!”
The chance to face Cronulla has additional significance for him, having been ruled out of the club’s last World Club Challenge by a cruel injury.
Powell was set to be in the squad to face Sydney Roosters in 2014 down in Australia, but tore ligaments days before the encounter.
I suppose it’s logic (to run at me) but I’ll be ready
“It was a day off and Iestyn Harris (then-assistant coach) suggested we do some kicking,” he recalls. “I kicked a ball, and as I brought my foot down, I stood on a ball on the ground and my ankle turned, and I ripped my outside tendons off.
“It wasn’t really painful but straight away I knew I wasn’t playing in the Roosters game, which was gutting.”
He missed the following year’s World Club Series match against Brisbane, but played in last season’s 42-12 defeat to the Queensland outfit – a game which would have a big bearing on his campaign.
Until then, Powell – a utility halfback/hooker – had been used mainly off the bench.
But when Micky McIlorum broke his ankle against the Broncos – an injury which he has yet to fully recover from – Powell was elevated to a starting role.
He certainly played a key role in their Grand Final charge.
Powell was the only player to feature in every match last season, and his whole-hearted displays saw him receive the club’s Players’ Player of the Year award.
“Looking back, last year’s Brisbane game was a nothing game, we lost some pride and we undersold ourselves and we would have liked to have played better, but it didn’t mean much,” he said.
“This is a lot more exciting, going for the World Club Challenge, and I can’t wait. There’s no better game.”
Several Cronulla personnel have already stated they don’t know much about Wigan’s players, and given Powell defends alongside props, he is expected a lot of traffic his way.
“I suppose it’s logic!” he smiled. “But I’ll be ready, I’m sure Taulima (Tautai), Frankie (Nuuausala) and Lockers (Sean O’Loughlin) will be there to back me up.
“As a middle unit, we want to get the better of their middle, and to do that we need to be firing.
“We have to turn up and give it our best shot.”
Wigan warmed up for this encounter with a 26-16 win against Salford in their opening Super League game.
Full-back Morgan Escare – the only ‘new face’ in the side – kicked three goals, Joe Burgess crossed on his return and Thomas Leuluai fitted back in seamlessly.
“We’re looking good, I don’t think there’s any better preparation than what we’ve done,” added Powell.