TORRENTIAL rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of thousands of Wigan Warriors fans who turned out to salute their Grand Final heroes.
They lined the streets and packed into the town centre to see a rather sodden, if jubilant, team holding the coveted Super League trophy aloft, just hours after their 22-10 win against old foes St Helens at Old Trafford.
Wigan band Boomin and cheerleaders warmed up the crowds as they waited patiently to see their brave Warriors. And, of course, mascot Max was happy to share his joy with the fans.
Martin Davies, 32, of Bryn, said: “I have waited years for this but it is worth the wait. It made it more special beating St Helens. I was confident they would win.”
Anne Tickle, 58, of Hindley Green, said: “We have waited for a long time for this. They deserve every accolade they get. I think Sam Tomkins and Pat Richards particularly played well.”
William Hamill, 46, of Norley Hall, said: “It was a very good win. I appreciate the work the coach has put in for the club. It has taken a long time for it to come, but they got there in the end.”
Stewart Dutton, 35, of Pemberton, said: “It’s absolutely fantastic. It has been a long time coming. I am here to support them, because I am a fan and they are the greatest team on earth. Every single player played well, which is why they won the Grand Final.”
Supporters went wild as their winning rugby team made its way from JJB Sports HQ at Martland Park into Wigan on an open-top bus, with Simply The Best, We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions blasting through the speakers. The team got a heroes’ welcome as they walked on the Market Place stage, with Man of Steel Pat Richards hobbling with his leg in a cast.
Wigan Mayor, Coun Michael Winstanley, said he was delighted to open the celebrations.
He said: “This is one of the proudest days of my life. We welcome them home – what a fantastic achievement. And what makes it sweeter is beating St Helens in the Grand Final.”
Richards, who ruptured his Achilles heel at the end of the first half, was given an extra cheer along with Superman chants! He said: “It has been a great year, and to win the shield and title, is awesome. I was more nervous on the bench, as I had no input to the team. A great effort from the boys.”
Coach Michael Maguire said: “This is the best moment of my rugby league career. It is a great honour to be part of a team like this.”
Captain Sean O’Loughlin said: “It has been a long time coming.”
Iafeta Paleaaesina said: “It is a great feeling to be up there, playing with your best mates. Wigan is close to my heart and I really appreciate it.”
And club chairman Ian Lenagan gave his appreciation to the fans. He said: “I had a great time at the match. There was nothing more impressive than going on the field and looking up at the Wigan fans. The support from the town has been great.”
The team were given a final salute as they made their way to the Town Hall for a buffet and further celebrations.