The Liam Farrell Column: Superstar? He was this scrawny little kid

Liam Farrell and Sam Tomkins in England colours
Liam Farrell and Sam Tomkins in England colours

It’ll be great to see Sam Tomkins back in the Wigan side this week.

It’s certainly been great having him back at the club these last few months.

I first became mates with Sam at St John Fisher High School.

Sam’s a school year older than me, but when I got to Year 8, I played for the year above, so we’ve been team-mates since I was 12 or 13.

It’s fair to say he wasn’t the player he is now!

He was a skinny little dweeb - well, he’s still skinny now - and certainly not the top player in our school side.

If anyone would have predicted then who would ‘make it’ from our team, Sam wouldn’t have been the first pick.

He was an average player in terms of his ability, but he had so much enthusiasm for the game.

He absolutely loved playing the game. He was never happier than when he had a rugby ball under his arm.

So you can imagine how gutted he was when I broke his arm!

We were playing a game one dinner time and I tackled him. He started crying - balling his eyes out - and I knew something was up.

I got up off him, and his wrist was facing the wrong way. He’d dislocated his wrist and broken his arm.

He’ll always call me for that, saying I was a big fat thing at school!

Sam was obviously good enough to grab Wigan’s attention, and while I was still at school, he joined the Under-18s.

He tells the story that Waney just wouldn’t pick him for his first year. He just could not get a game.

Then, near the end of the season, Sam was on the bench when a brawl kicked off and he told the lads to get on and get involved.

Quite a few players ended up getting banned, leaving Waney with no choice but to pick him for their next game - which just so happened to be the Grand Final.

By the time I joined the following year, Sam was pretty established in the Under-18s, and because I’d known him from school he made it easier for me to settle in.

He’d changed loads in that year.

It was as if he had turned from a boy into a man. He had put some weight on, he had grown, he was making an impact in games. People suddenly began to realise how good a player he was going to be, and he didn’t take long to prove that in the first-team.

I followed him into the first-team in 2010 and we had four great years in the same side before he left for New Zealand.

Towards the end of his first spell at the club, I think it got to a point where people started taking Sam for granted.

Each week, it seemed, he’d create two tries and maybe score a try and no-one would think about it - they came to expect it.

But if we’d had someone in the side doing that this year, he’d get the man of the match and we’d be winning by an extra 12 to 18 points!

He deservedly got the Man of Steel in 2012 and, in my view, he was unlucky not to win it the year earlier when Rangi Chase took it instead.

I’m confident he get back to his best, though I think everyone needs to give him time to find his feet.

Everyone should expect a few games before you see the real Sam Tomkins.

I know one thing for certain - he will be doing all he can to deliver.

He’s such a competitive person, he puts everything into what he does.

But realistically, he’s not played in a long time, he’s had no pre-season games, and there are players he has never played with.

Dan Sarginson, John Bateman, Tony Clubb and Taulima Tautai are new team-mates to him, and it takes a while to build up combinations.

Even George Williams - I think he played mainly off the bench at hooker when Sam last played with him.

So it may take him time to settle back in.

And it could hardly have been a tougher game to make his return.

Every year we say it’s about time Hull FC deliver, and right now they’re doing well.

They schooled St Helens at the weekend and deserved their win.

There is a difference between the squads, in that we have a lot more local lads and they have recruited big superstars from abroad, but there’s no doubt they have a talented squad, particularly in the pack, and it sets the stage for a great game.

Liam Farrell was talking to Phil Wilkinson