Comment: ‘We knew Tomkins was going. Now we know the reason why’

Sam Tomkins has done enough to be remembered as a great
Sam Tomkins has done enough to be remembered as a great

At 7.10am this morning, one of rugby league’s worst-kept secrets was confirmed in a 350-word statement from Wigan. Sam Tomkins will be leaving at the end of the year.

Wigan didn’t name his destination - which is standard-practice, it is not their job.

But even if you had been living under a rock and had missed reports of Catalans’ interest, the remarks from Kris Radlinski made it so obvious, even the thickest contestant on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? could work it out.

Sam wants to “see his kids speaking another language”, said Radlinski. Given there is only one of 28 top-flight rugby league clubs based in a place where they speak a different language - no Hull jokes, please - then Perpignan will be his new home from the end of this year.

And - when you strip out the praise and assurances Tomkins will give his all until the end of the season - that is really what we learned from this statement: The reason why he’s going.

It isn’t about money or the length of his contract.

It isn’t because he thinks his chances of glory are greater elsewhere (the big unanswered question is: what happens if Catalans are relegated?).

This isn’t about trophies or his legacy. Isn’t, really, about rugby league at all.

It’s about a young dad wanting to give his two children and partner the chance to experience a new culture for a few years before he retires.

And when you put it like that, who can blame him?

Sure, fans will be disappointed to see him leave. Anyone who was at Hull KR on Sunday will testify what a huge influence he has on the side. When the score was locked 10-10 after the hour-mark, it was Tomkins who scored the next try. Tomkins who nailed the sideline conversion... and flashed a smile at the Robins fans who had targeted him with abuse. Tomkins who kicked a penalty and took a grip and steered them home.

This week marked a decade since his breathtaking, five-try breakthrough. He is a different player, now.

No longer the Scrappy Doo puppy of energy he was as a teenager. Not quite as rapid or as elusive as in 2012, when he won the Man of Steel, either.

But his form this season has been superb, his competitiveness and intelligence and maturity playing a huge role in Wigan’s strong start to the campaign.

I’d argue only Sean O’Loughlin has a bigger influence on the side.

Wigan should be fine without him. They have coped with major losses before. French livewire Morgan Escare is under contract for two more years, and Zak Hardaker - who can play full-back or centre - is expected to join once he has served his doping ban in November.

Between now and then, Tomkins has a chance to add more silverware to a Wikipedia entry which already boasts two Challenge Cup wins and two Grand Final triumphs.

If there’s any justice, he should add another England cap to his haul next month, too.

He has surely done enough to be remembered, in years to come, as one of the club’s greats. His impressive highlights reel only hints at his impact. His presence, his talents... and his ability to wind-up opponents!

Enjoy watching him play in the Cherry and White while you can.