As rugby league legends gathered to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Wigan’s first World Club Challenge win, one native was back from his Manly base to take on a task as momentous.
Rik English was back home for a family reunion, and competed in last weekend’s Ironman UK – a gruelling triathlon only for the brave incorporating a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile cycle and a marathon.
The 29-year-old, originally from Coppull, has lived in Australia for the past six years, and currently lives in Manly, where Wigan’s opponents from that famous night 30 years ago came from.
But English’s visit was cause for a different kind of celebration, and the flight from the other side of the world was not for a rest.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “I started running when I was 17 - my first run was in aid of cancer research in memory of my grandad and my first marathon was four years ago along the Gold Coast.
“Last year, my mates and I said how it would be great to do an ironman, so I signed-up a year ago.”
No stranger to fitness - English ran a 60km ultra marathon last year - then immediately began training for last Sunday’s event, which took place on a course across the North West including his native Wigan.
“The race started the day I signed up because you have to train like a full-time athlete as well as your day job,” said English.
“But Australia is the perfect environment for running, you can get up and go for a run along the beach before work.”
But the training was the least of his worries ahead of Ironman.
On his journey to the UK, his equipment got held-up in transit.
“My equipment got left in Abu Dhabi and I had a race on to get my stuff,” he laughed.
“I took to social media for help and within 10 hours I had everything I needed. My bike came from a bloke I’d never met. I’m so grateful for everyone who has helped me.”
English is used to traveling despite laying a new foundation Down Under.
He now has dual UK/Australian citizenship but has also lived in California and New Zealand.
“My love of rugby league first took me to Australia,” he explained.
“I got a degree in sports journalism and did work experience with Wigan Warriors before going backpacking in Australia. I played RL and worked in recruitment.
“I just fell in love with the lifestyle and became a citizen this year.”
Despite living in Manly, English follows Souths thanks to ex-Wigan coach Michael Maguire being at the helm, and keeps up-to-date with Warriors like their old boss does.
“My job when I moved to Sydney was working in a gym and Souths would come in a lot do some work,” he explained.
“I’d sometimes have a chat about Wigan and how he follows them and keeps in touch with Waney.”
English was joined by two friends and his 51-year-old uncle on the Ironman course, though he lamented ‘only’ managing one loop of the cycling course during the event which took him a total of 14-and-a-half-hours.
But his troubles of two wheels didn’t spoil the experience.
“It was a brilliant day,” he said.
“The ironman is the toughest endurance event I’ve ever done and I wanted to be challenged physically and mentally in a way I’d never been before.
“I got so much more out of it and it was one of the best days of my life, and to do the event in the area I grew-up was special.
“I’m so grateful to all the friends and family who came along to cheer me on.”