Police, fights... and burning shorts! Untold stories from five epic Good Friday derbies

Stars look back at five classic Good Friday derbies from the last 20 years... and reveal some fascinating insights!

Friday, 10th April 2020, 8:36 am
Updated Friday, 10th April 2020, 8:42 am
Stephen Wild tries to pin down Jon Wilkin's arms

1. If this was an episode of Friends, it would be titled, ‘The one with all the kids’.

In 2003, Stuart Raper was missing nine first-teamers, forcing him to call-up a crop of players from the academy such as Kevin Brown, Shaun Briscoe, Dave Allen and Mark Roberts – and even draft in Jon Whittle from Orrell.

But the youngsters overturned a 10-point deficit at the break to win 24-22 and earn their place in Wigan folklore. “To this day, the only other game which gave me the same excitement and enjoyment was beating Tonga with England,” said Salford’s Kevin Brown, who made his debut that Good Friday.

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“Nobody expected us to win, we’d been written off.

“I remember, I hadn’t even been around the senior squad, really – never mind the actual match-day squad – so I was really nervous, and a bit star-struck still to be honest.

“Before the game, they asked if I wanted a massage to relax me, which was great... until Terry Newton rubbed Deap Heat into my backside! It burned a lot but it lightened the mood.”

Among the youngsters were senior figures, including current Warriors coach Adrian Lam.

Brown continued: “I watched from the bench for 40 minutes and then I went on as a winger. I’d never played there, I was opposite Darren Albert and I remember thinking, ‘If he gets away here I’ve no chance of catching him!’

“Luckily after about 10 minutes they moved me to stand-off and I had a bit more impact, and Lammy was there and he helped

massively.

“Once we realised we had a chance, the enthusiasm just grew and grew, and I remember Scully (Saints’ Paul Sculthorpe) going down the shortside and he did a flick pass – nine times out of 10 it goes to Albert and he scores –and luckily it went into touch.

“To this day, I’ve never seen the game back and it’s apparently on Sky this Friday, so I’m looking forward to watching it.”

2. An explosive and engrossing derby finished 21-21... but is remembered for one thing.

Midway through the second-half, a scrap between Terry Newton and Jon Wilkin drew in players from both sides and, in the heart of the melee, there was a heated exchange between rival captains Andy Farrell and Paul Sculthorpe.

Watching it back on YouTube – as thousands have – it would be easy to have sympathy for Stephen Wild, who appears to be trying to split up the initial fight when Samoan winger Dom Feaunati beelines for him and unleashes a number of punches on him.

And, Wild admits today, that sympathy would be misplaced!

“I brought that on myself,” he said. “I remember a coach telling me that if there’s a fight, if you lock an opponent in – by grabbing their arms – you won’t get punished or suspended.

“Anyway, earlier in the game it had kicked off, and I grabbed Longy’s arms as Danny Sculthorpe went at him.

“Longy later told me the Saints lads knew what I was doing.

“So when it went off in the second half and I grabbed Wilko to lock him in, they came for me... luckily I had Faz to save me!”

Feaunati quickly turned his attentions to one of Wild’s team-mates.

“You can see, off camera, he comes for me,” recalls Kevin Brown. “I was 60kg wet-through, he was twice that size, and I thought, ‘I didn’t sign up for this’ so I ran away!”

Wild’s ploy worked in the sense that he avoided a fine or suspension, and this week, he expects plenty of reminders about the fight.

“Honestly, I think that’s what my career is best remembered for,” smiled Wild, who runs Wild Bull gym in Whelley. “Every year I’ll be tagged into a Facebook post or sent a clip in a Whatsapp group or something. It’s funny, looking back now. It’s a cliche but it’s true, everything is left on the pitch. I roomed with Wilko in GB and I knew a few of the other Saints lads, but for 80 minutes you’re ready to kill each other! It’s a strange feeling.”

As for the game itself, Mike Gregory’s Wigan battled back from 14-2 down to take the lead, only for Long’s drop goal to snatch a 21-21 draw.

3. Wigan’s flying start under Michael Maguire in 2010 received an acid test when they faced St Helens in a high-stakes derby... the last ever at Knowsley Road.

“We put quite a bit of pressure on ourselves to win that game,” says ex-centre Darrell Goulding, who is now the club’s reserve coach.

“We all knew it was going to be an iconic game.”

Goulding and prop Iafeta Paleaaesina (below) scored tries in a tough, 18-10 victory.

“It was a really good feeling to get that win,” added Goulding. “We were in a good position and I imagine we went into it as favorites, but it reaffirmed where we were at and the journey we were on.”

4. He has starred for club and country and won the Harry Sunderland Trophy.

But for many, Liam Farrell’s most iconic moment came in the early days of his career – in the Good Friday derby.

In 2011, Wigan were trailing 22-24 at home to Saints, heading into the final minute. Handed one last attack on the visitors’ line, Paul Deacon slipped a short pass to a charging Farrell and he rushed through a gap to score the match-winner – and spark a mass pile-on.

“Scoring that try was the most surreal moment of my career,” he said.

“In such a short space of time, the buzz around the ground was unreal.”

Team-mates still remember the euphoria of the moment.

“I was on the other side of the pitch when he went over, and I’ve never run as fast in the 80th minute as I did in getting over for the celebrations,” said winger Pat Richards.

“It was an incredible feeling, to beat St Helens in a derby, and at the death like we did.”

5. After winning the last derby at Knowsley Road, Wigan doubled up by winning their first meeting at Langtree Park – and they did it in some style.

Gareth Hock set up a try for Sam Tomkins and scored one himself, though ask him about the 28-12 victory, and another flashpoint comes to his memory.

“I remember that one... I got interviewed by the police,” smiled the ex-blockbusting forward.

After Tomkins has celebrated his try with a backwards run down the deadball line – in front of the Saints fans – Hock went one step further following his own touchdown, instinctively launching the ball into the crowd.

“I was just celebrating, winning that game meant the world to me,” said Hock.

“But a few days later, I got a call saying there’d been a complaint.

“Someone had said I’d aimed the ball at a kid on someone’s shoulders, and the police were investigating it!

“I was laughing at first. I couldn’t believe it.

"I even got interviewed about it by the officer in Ian Lenagan’s office. It could only happen to me, that...”

Nothing came of the investigation and Hock – at his brilliant best during that derby – still recalls the significance of the win.

Darrell Goulding, George Carmont and Jeff Lima also scored tries.

“Waney was coach and you know what he’s like, he had us up for it all week,” added Hock.

“It meant the world to him and the world to me.”

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