Brand new rugby exhibition opens ahead of Wigan Warriors' 150th year and the 2022 World Cup
A brand new rugby league exhibition in the Museum of Wigan Life has opened its doors to the public.
The “Gerrumonside” experience provides a historical look-back at the sport, celebrating its past and present both within the borough and internationally.
Visitors will follow our local teams’ trophy-filled histories and learn how Wigan, Leigh and Tyldesley broke away from the Rugby Football Union in 1895 and formed the Northern Union.
Wigan Council leader David Molyneux said: “I had no doubt in my mind that we wouldn’t pull this off, it is special. As we head towards the 2022 World Cup and Wigan Warriors’ 150th anniversary, it was so important.
“When we saw Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield last week, it showed what the rugby league fanbase is all about. It is so important that we recognise our heritage as a borough because it has played a significant part in the history of the sport.
“It’s not just about the professional game, but the amateur one as well. We have a backbone of clubs who are the supply chain to every club in the country.
“I’m really pleased the younger generation have the opportunity to look around and see what it means to the people in this town, it’s just a pity they can’t have the experience of going to Central Park and the atmosphere there.
“I think I saw my first game there in the 1960s, so it is a long time ago, but memories stay forever and I think a lot of people will come and relate to that.
“We don’t want to put too much pressure on the current Wigan squad, but this is what success is, but hopefully they can build on that.”
Warriors head coach Matt Peet, along with a few members of his team, was invited down for an early preview of the exhibition.
After seeing the displays, he believes the museum will help to “build excitement” heading into a big year for the sport.
He said: “It’s fantastic, it is great that the town can host it. It is really important that the people from the town make an effort and come for a look around, because I don’t think they will be disappointed.
“Some of the exhibits give an insight into the history the town has in the game, as well as the international game. It’s an important opportunity for people to come and experience it and for our players to come and get a sense of the game in this town.
“It’s huge that my players know what’s come before them and the part they play. They are custodians of the jersey and should represent the club in the right manner. Coming to something like this highlights that.
“If you look around, we have Billy Boston on the wall, present players, local school children and World Cup winner Tommy Leuluai here, so it really does reflect on all generations.
“If we can inspire a few more people to get out and watch or take part, then it’s all the better.
The Wigan head coach says the exhibition made him reminisce about his own experiences of the game.
“I’ve seen some old pictures of the crowd in the ’80s and ’90s, so it brought back good memories for me. I also really like the picture of Billy Boston walking through the tunnel, with the fans on either side. I think that that is really inspirational, representing the man and the club really well.”
One of the players attending was Morgan Smithies, who was there with Jake Bibby, Oliver Partington and Thomas Leuluai.
Smithies said: “It’s pretty special, I’m really impressed with it. It’s got wheelchair rugby, women’s and men’s, so it’s not just simply about Wigan.”
Also among the first visitors to the exhibition was St John Fisher’s rugby team.
Mr Connelly, the school’s PE teacher and head of year 10, felt it was important to give his pupils an “insight into the past” of the local area.
He said: “The kids have loved it, this is something they can relate to. It’s good to see all the teams represented. There are some past names of players, who you just forget how talented they were.
“It is an insight into what can be ahead of players if they do the right things, work hard and stick to the advice they are given. If they don’t get inspiration from this then they never will.
“Our school works really hard to continue the tradition of rugby and they do that by offering the opportunity to play by entering competitions.
“We try to instill discipline and respect as a person, away from the rugby side of things.”
The museum is based on Library Street and is open Tuesday to Saturday between 10am and 4pm.
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