Anthony Gelling on the "different vibe" from talks about rejoining Wigan Warriors
One-time Wigan favourite Anthony Gelling will be aiming to silence the fans that cheered him when he makes his debut for arch rivals Warrington in Thursday's opening Betfred Super League match of the season.
The 29-year-old Cook Islands international scored 52 tries in 102 Super League appearances for the Warriors after joining them as an unknown in 2012 and was in the Shaun Wane team that beat the Wolves 12-6 in the 2016 Grand Final.
Gelling left the club on the eve of the 2018 season to be closer to family after his girlfriend had been involved in a car accident and spent a year with New Zealand Warriors before returning to England.
He then had a 12-month stint with relegated Widnes before being given the chance to resume his Super League career with Warrington, with a return to Wigan never really on the cards.
"I had other offers but obviously if you lay every Super League card out on the table, the Warrington one is the one you're probably going to pick," he said.
"There was a discussion about going back to Wigan but nothing really more than that.
"It's kind of a different set-up there now. Shaun Wane has gone, a lot of players have moved on, they've moved facilities and stuff like that.
"It was kind of a different vibe I got when I went to talk to them, I'm happy to be at Warrington."
So what kind of reception is Gelling expecting from the Wigan fans and what will it be like to run out at the DW Stadium as an away player?
"I've got no idea," he said. "I can't picture it in my head. I've been asked a couple of times and every time I close my eyes I can't imagine being at the DW and running against Wigan.
"I left on good terms, I've still got a lot of friends there and I love the Wigan fans.
"I didn't want to leave, my hand was forced a bit, I definitely left before I wanted to leave."
Gelling, who helped the Cook Islands qualify for the 2021 World Cup in the autumn, says he saw "the dark side of rugby league" during his time at Widnes and is keen to fulfil the rest of his potential.
"This is a very important chapter in my career, so I want to make a real good case for myself and reflect the hard work I've put in for over a decade now," he said.
Warrington are also set to give a debut to Matty Ashton, who is likely to line up at full-back, with Stefan Ratchford moving into the halves to offset the loss of another new signing, Gareth Widdop, with an ankle injury.
Wigan will give debuts to new signings Jackson Hastings, George Burgess and Jake Bibby while Bevan French looks set to start at full-back, with Zak Hardaker switching to centre in place of Oliver Gildart, who is still recovering from shoulder surgery.