Charnley exclusive: Why I have to go
Only last Monday, a hat-trick in the win over Hull KR, which ultimately proved the difference between the sides, showed why the Warriors shop sells out of No.2 for the back of replica shirts.
And on Good Friday, after another memorable win over St Helens, the jet-heeled ace could be seen posing for photos with fans after the full-time hooter. They love him, which is why, even though the news of his move to Sale Sharks wasn’t a shock, it was an upset.
Speculation over Charnley’s future has been bubbling since this, the last season of his Warriors deal, kicked off.
Sale’s interest was reported by the Wigan Observer on March 15, and Charnley’s response was to put in an impressive try-scoring display in a televised loss to Widnes two days later.
A strike rate of 148 tries from 152 games shows why he’ll be remembered when he switches to the 15-man code.
But Charnley has revealed the decision wasn’t taken lightly – and it even divided his own family before he put pen to paper on a two-and-a-half-year deal.
“It was one of those – I had to think about the future,” he told the Evening Post.
“I was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.
“I had my family round and spoke to them – they kicked up a fuss at home with some saying they didn’t want me to leave and others saying I should take the opportunity.
“But this is for me – I wanted a new challenge. I wanted something new to excite me. But it was so hard because I love Wigan to bits.”
Charnley doesn’t want to be left asking himself, ‘What if’, or leave it too late in his career to try a new sport.
Dauntingly, Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond has even compared him to Jason Robinson, who so successfully crossed codes to join Sale from Wigan in 2000.
“Josh is a great signing. Everyone I have spoken to rates him very highly,” said Diamond.
“He has explosive pace and can play either fullback or on the wing.
“The last big signing we made from Wigan, back in 2000, was Jason Robinson and what an impact he had.”
And while Charnley is well aware Robinson’s path is not a given for code converts, it isn’t stopping him from setting the goal of walking out at Twickenham wearing a white shirt with a red rose.
“I had to ask myself where I see myself when I’m 28 or 29,” he said.
“Not many players have done it and made the England team – you’ve had Jason, Sam Burgess and Joel Tomkins – but I want to be in a select few.
“I want to put that jersey on and represent my country – it would be an honour.”
For the next seven months, Charnley will have to put nervous excitement about moving to the back of his mind. He has the remainder of his Wigan contract to see out – and he doesn’t want to let distractions loosen his grip on a place he’s worked so hard to win back after an injury-hit 2015.
“I want to win silverware and I want to do it for the fans,” he said.
“I want to say a massive thanks to Wigan for sticking by me, through my injury and opening doors for me. I have to repay them for everything they have done for me.
“I am going to miss the boys.
“I’m good mates with Waney and it will be tough leaving.”