Sean O'Loughlin's Wigan Warriors legacy... and who should also join Hall of Fame?
What is your single favourite Sean O’Loughlin moment or memory?
Alex Graham: We’ve been blessed as Wigan supporters to have witnessed Sean O’Loughlin’s brilliant career week in, week out while wearing cherry and white. He might not score in every fixture, he doesn’t kick goals nor does he get every assist, but the leadership, detail and brilliance which materialises on the occasions he touches the ball is exactly why both Super League and NRL legends rank him as one of the best they’ve played with. Like we often see towards successful Wigan players, there has always been an element of disrespect and lack of game understanding from rivals and non-Wigan fans towards O’Loughlin, who has led us to 10 domestic and world major titles. But his man of the series performances against New Zealand in 2015 give those same critics no choice but to stand on their feet and applaud in admiration, particularly after THAT try when he railroaded Adam Blair into the back of the stand.
Sean Lawless: There are a few memories that stick in my mind of Lockers – the Catalans masterclass when he moved to half back and ran the show, the time for England when he ran over Adam Blair, and that pass in the derby to Dan Sarginson.
However, perhaps my favourite is the unexpected moment at the Magic Weekend in the final seconds, when he put up an inch perfect bomb for Joe Burgess to collect and equalise in the 80th minute against Warrington.
Jon Lyon: It’s almost impossible to single out one memory from 19 years of brilliance.
There’s very little Lockers can’t do, and it’s been a joy watching him smash opponents with brutal tackling one minute and putting someone over with a delicate pass or kick the next.
If I had to pick one from the thousands of moments I’ve been lucky enough to see, a favourite that springs to mind is the pass at the end of the 2013 Grand Final. In a fantastic game that saw us come back from the dead, in what was Pat Richards’ final game, Lockers’ beautiful floated cut out pass which sent the winger over for the final try of the game was a peach, and summed up everything about him. His ability to read a game is second to none and he gave Pat the perfect send off with a moment of skill not many can match. It’s a pass we’ve seen many a time from Sean, and opponents know what he is capable of, but knowing it and stopping it are two very different things.
Steve Ford: The obvious one would be against Saints on a Good Friday where he throws out a ridiculous pass to Sarginson who scores in the corner. Sarginson couldn’t believe his luck!
My personal favourite, though, is probably when we beat Saints sin the 2010 Grand Final, with Sean raising the trophy after a pretty convincing win. He had been with us through some dark days and it was great to see him lift some silverware at long last and as captain of his home town team.
Darren Wrudd: This is a tough choice really as there really have been so many special on-field moments, like a very fresh faced young lad picking up from loose forward, going on a looping run and making a mockery of the defences in a great early, possibly his first DW Stadium try. It was in the heady days when life beyond Andy Farrell at No.13 was simply not a possibility and, at that point, I said to my wife, Glenda, we are safe for years to come with this lad.
But I think my favourite moment was off the field. At one of the end-of-season dinners, my mother wanted a photo with Sean and was quite excited at the prospect.
Sean was the complete gentleman, as I have seen him so very many times with us supporters. He posed with my mother and gave us a lovely smile and a chat, a great ambassador for the club and a genuinely wonderful chap.
Where does he rank in the list of Wigan greats?
Alex Graham: I find it really hard to compare players by attributes when the game changes and evolves so much over time.
However, if we judge him on his contribution, ability, leadership, loyalty and overall quality towards the club relevant to modern times he’s as influential and special as any player alongside him in the Hall of Fame. It was a long 12 years between Super League titles, and it took a special person to be the key player, captain and leader to shape not just a playing squad, but an entire culture around. All this didn’t happen by fluke, Sean has been in the Wigan system and earned every success and honour since Under-11s town team eligibility. He is a born winner. A genuine Wigan legend.
Sean Lawless: He has to rank as one of the greats, a one-club man who was with Wigan during the dark days of 2006, made captain at probably an age before he was ready, and to maintain the quality of his game. He will always be compared to Farrell and Hanley directly, but ultimately, O’Loughlin was a one-man club and he will sit correctly, in those discussions of who you would have in a dream Wigan XIII forever more.
Jon Lyon: We have been blessed at Wigan to watch some of the greatest players of all time. I don’t think it is any exaggeration to say Sean O’Loughlin ranks up there with the very best.
Following on from Andy Farrell was a daunting prospect, but Lockers has made the captaincy his own. Less vocal than Faz, Sean has always led by example.
Whenever Wigan have been struggling, he is the one who pulls off a huge hit to lift the side or win back the ball, or he creates something out of nothing to change the course of a game. It speaks volumes how revered he is around the world. He has been courted by the best clubs in the NRL, yet remained loyal to his beloved hometown club, which only adds to his legendary status. Even in his mid-thirties over the last few seasons, there is still a noticeable difference when Sean is on the pitch and when he is not. From Hanley to Clarke to Faz to O’Loughlin, we have been blessed at loose forward. Good luck to Partington/Smithies/Bateman – whoever has to fill Lockers’ huge shoes.
Steve Ford: We have been blessed with great No.13s and he ranks up there with Hanley and Andy Farrell. All of them had their own strengths, and I think to mention Sean in the same class as the other two greats puts him up there as one of the best players I have ever seen. Pound for pound the hardest ever tackler I’ve ever seen in a Wigan shirt.
He tackled fairly (on the whole) and to inflict pain.
Darren Wrudd: At a mere 53 years old, I am too young to remember the likes of Boston and company, although I do remember Bill Ashurst and just how good he was. But Sean must surely rank up there with the very best. His commitment to Wigan adds to this as he has given so much blood, sweat and tears on our behalf. But as a talent, I would rate the lad as the best in his generation worldwide, never mind in Wigan. Every aspect of his game both on and off the park is the envy of other Super League teams, and he strikes fear into defences whenever he is near the ball.
His command of the team as captain is dominant by leadership, not shouting and screaming as some do and this shows his strength and the respect shown by his peers. It was a bold step to give him the captaincy at such a young age and many of us did not understand it, me included. But it was inspirational and history proves this. Greatest No.13 of all time, quite possibly.
He has been included in the club’s Hall of Fame. who should be the other legend inducted?
Alex Graham: Despite only playing a short time at the club, Brett Kenny is still talked about as being one of, if not the best some Wigan fans have ever seen play. If it was based on playing ability alone, he would be my suggestion. However, Shaun Wane’s contribution to the Wigan club as a player, coach and his ability to produce successful rugby league players is unrivalled. He used the successes, ethos, mentality and legacy of those in already in the Hall of Fame to create a modern culture with extremely high but evidently realistic benchmarks to achieve success, and he did it well.
Sean Lawless: The other legend to be added should be Shaun Wane and I don’t think there should even be a debate around it. He would join Colin Clarke as a player and coach to join the Hall of Fame, but the work Wane did during his full time with the club, from working in the academy through to being a head coach, should be recognised by a place in the Hall of Fame.
Jon Lyon: I am torn between two. Shaun Wane’s loyalty to Wigan over such a long period is worthy of a place. His achievements as a player have been matched if not exceeded as a coach. There is not a man alive who loves our club more, and Shaun certainly deserves the honour of Hall of Fame membership.
My second choice is my childhood hero Joe Lydon. In eight seasons at Wigan, he scored nearly a thousand points and won everything on offer numerous times during our golden years. More than that are the moments of inspiration that left my jaw on the floor and had this young boy hooked on a sport.
Be it try-saving tackles, length-of-the-field tries, 61 yard game-changing drop goals, matchwinning touchline conversions, or on occasion enjoying a bit of the biff, there was nothing Joe couldn’t do – and he made watching the game a magical experience.
Steve Ford: Difficult one this. So many to choose from – Bill Ashurst, Tommy Bradshaw, Ces Mountford, Dave Bolton, Graeme West, Kris Radlinski, Jason Robinson, Henry Paul, Terry Newton, Pat Richards to name but a few. Any of them would be a worthy member of the exclusive club.
If pushed I’d go with Terry Newton with Tommy Bradshaw a very close second choice.
Terry was a fantastic clubman and consistently good for club and country.
Darren Wrudd: While we have seen such great players at Wigan and so very many of them, names trip off the tongue like Richards, Connolly, Wane, Hampson, Dallas and I could go on.
But for me, the Hall of Fame stands for that special commitment. The stand-out talents that always go the extra mile and lead the way from the start to the end of their time at Wigan.
It takes a very special type of man to stand out in such company but one who does, head and shoulders above the rest has to be Kris Radlinski. From the fresh-faced kid fighting for his spot on the team bus, to whom became one of the most respected men in the world of rugby league, Radlinski epitomises the ethos we strive for here at Wigan.
Putting your own regard for self-preservation to the back of your mind as full back is pretty standard these days, but coming out of a well-earned retirement to help save his beloved club sums this man up.
Wigan through and through, he has gone on to his current position through the same hard work ethics and determination to improve at every chance, and this has made him the success he is today.
A dedicated family man of extremely high moral standards, I would be the first to put my hand in my pocket if a statue was planned as I rate him so highly as a club legend. He simply IS, what Wigan stands for and if Mr Lenagan ever reads this I implore you to induct Mr Kris Radlinski without further ado.