Shelford: I wish dad was here to see debut

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Minutes after the full-time whistle, Kyle Shelford sought out his dad’s name on Wigan’s list of past players – plastered to the wall outside the dressing room – and asked for this picture to be taken.

Adrian was a Kiwi prop who won three Challenge Cups with Wigan between 1988 and 1990.

He died of a heart attack in 2003, aged just 39, when Shelford was in primary school.

“It’s a proud moment, I wish he was here to see it,” said Shelford. “I’m really happy to make my debut.

“Most of my family from New Zealand have moved to Australia, but we have a Facebook group and I told them I was making my debut, and they were all chuffed for me.

“Hopefully I can play some more games and they’ll get to see me play.”

Shelford was the fourth player in the side to have a dad who has represented Wigan, alongside Oliver Gildart (Ian), Sean O’Loughlin (Keiron) and Lewis Tierney (Jason Robinson).

He and forward Macauley Davies both made their debuts in the 22-18 win against Wakefield, taking the number of academy-players to debut for Wigan this year to eight.

They came off the bench early in the second-half but – with Wigan down to 12-men and trailing on the scoreboard – they were only given limited minutes.

Shelford, playing in the middle, caught the eye with a try-saving tackle close to his line.

“I understood why Waney is going to put his strongest side out to see the game out, rather than put the result on our shoulders,” said Shelford, showing maturity beyond his years.

“It’s hard to put into words how I’m feeling. I’m still happy.”

Wigan needed a last-minute try by Lewis Tierney to secure their eighth straight win which sent them top of the Super League table.

“I thought we would do it,” said Shelford. “I said to Joe Bretherton, there were people leaving with a few minutes to go to beat the traffic, and I said: ‘They shouldn’t be leaving because we can still win this’.

“When Lewis went over I turned to him and said: ‘I told you!’ You could pick out bits we should have been smarter in, but since I came here at 14, the word ‘desire’ is used regularly, and the lads showed that by winning with 12 men.

“I definitely don’t want to be one of those players who gets in and not again. The first thing I’m going to do is go to Waney and John Winder and ask what can I improve on. I want to do anything I can to get back into the team.”

Shelford, a polite and amiable teenager, had a word of gratitude for those who have helped him through his promising junior career which included captaining the England academy side.

“I always remind myself that I wouldn’t be at this point if it wasn’t for all the people who supported me - my family, my school (St Peter’s), Shevington Sharks, my coaches,” he said. “There are times you doubt whether you will get there, but for them it’s a big ‘thank you’.”