Liam Marshall is only 20, but he has experienced enough during his short career to ensure he doesn’t take his chance in the Wigan first-team for granted.
The winger made his debut in Friday’s 20-0 win against Leigh and – with Joe Burgess and Lewis Tierney suffering injuries in that game – is poised for a spell in the team, starting with Thursday’s visit to Warrington in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
I didn’t expect to play this season to be honest, just to be around the squad was the goalLiam Marshall
All of which has come as a huge surprise for the former St Pat’s junior, who just a few months ago was working as a trainee accountant, playing part-time at Championship club Swinton – and thinking his Super League dream may have passed.
“I was working during the day and then going straight to training at night,” he said. “Now I’m full-time, it makes you appreciate how lucky we are to be playing rugby.”
Marshall progressed through Wigan’s academy system but at the end of 2015, was not offered a full-time deal.
“I was too old for the Under-19s, but luckily for me the reserves came back in, so I was given a part-time contract,” he explained. “There were only six or seven games during the year, but I took that, on the basis it was better than playing for an amateur club.
“Then the opportunity came up to go to Swinton, so I spent the full season there – I only came back to Wigan for the reserve games, and maybe a training session before each of them.”
He flourished in the Championship, scoring 20 tries in 22 appearances, in addition to the six tries he bagged in seven reserve matches for the Warriors.
During the week, he also began work as a trainee accountant.
“It’s not like I grew up wanting to be an accountant,” he smiled. “But I was quite good with numbers, I did a course at college and I enjoyed it, and I thought it’d be a career I could progress in.
“I was enjoying it, and I put my focus into that and thought – if I could play rugby part-time – it would work out well for me.
“Then I got a call from my agent – it may have been last September – and he said, ‘Wigan want to sign you to the first-team’. It was a big shock. It came as a whirlwind.
“I didn’t expect to play this season to be honest, just to be around the squad was the goal, so to break into the team was a dream come true.”
Wane hinted he may give Marshall a chance at the start of last week, but only confirmed his selection the day before the game.
And he made sure it was a special occasion for him by inviting along his dad Dave, a former team-mate of the coach, who made 39 appearances between 1987 and ‘90.
“I’d seen him in the morning. He’s usually up and out for work, but he was sat in his pyjamas and he told me he was only going in late, but it didn’t click,” said Marshall.
“Then I was in the gym and Jake Shorrocks told me he’d seen my dad outside.
“Waney brought him in, and he presented me with my shirt, which was good.
“My dad obviously played for Wigan so it was a bit special.”
Marshall becomes the latest current player whose dads also played for the club, after Olive Gildart (Ian), Kyle Shelford (Adrian) and Lewis Tierney (Jason Robinson), as well as elder statesman Sean O’Loughlin (Keiron).
“His playing career finished early so he’s always been into me about having something else – I’ll probably look at going back to the accountancy training part-time,” he said. But first, his full attention is on justifying his selection in the Wigan side.
Shaun Wane described his debut against Leigh as “okay” – some would regard that as measured praise – in awful conditions, and Marshall will be hoping to exhibit more of his attacking qualities at the HJ Stadium.
“I played an Under-19s game there once as a curtain-raiser and the atmosphere was good, so this will be another step up,” he added.
“Warrington are a classy side – it should be a good one.”