Wigan Warriors: Brad O'Neill discusses what it was like becoming a father and reaching a Challenge Cup final in the space of a few days
The 19-year-old celebrated the birth of his daughter, Arabella, on the Thursday before Wigan Warriors beat St Helens at Elland Road to book their place at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on May 28.
O’Neill says he has grown up both on and off the pitch across the last month, with first team opportunities coming his way following Sam Powell’s suspension.
He said: “It’s been a pretty mad couple of weeks. Obviously I’ve started playing first team regularly, then having the baby, and then two days later playing in a semi-final against St Helens. It’s been exciting and is what dreams are made of.
“There have been some hard games, but I’ve dealt with it and hopefully I’m doing my best. I’ve worked hard in training for months, and this opportunity to start is why you do it. I’ve loved every minute and I think I’ve taken to it really well.
“It’s something I’ve learned from week by week. It’s all been really good for my development and will only stand me in good stead.
“Dealing with the baby at home is good but also tough. There have been a few sleepless nights in there but it’s all worth it, It’s been really good.
“I’ve had to grow up pretty fast but I’ve done pretty well and took it in my stride. I’m enjoying parenthood. We’ve got her a cherry and white Wigan kit ready, and a little baby grow as well, so she’s into rugby already.
“Sam (Powell) has been very good both on and off the field. He’s a great bloke and a really good role model to learn from. It’s great to speak to him every day in general. I’ve been working hard learning from him as well as competing with him.“When he comes back, I’ll try my hardest still just to play my best so I can try and stay in the team.”
O’Neill says he is enjoying being alongside other young players in the Warriors squad.
“We’ve played through the academy together and come through the reserves,” he added.
“Me and Sam (Halsall) have also had a couple of trips up to Newcastle this year, which has also been good for me.
“I’ve had a little bit of Championship action last year as well with Widnes, and now I’ve had another taste. It’s very competitive rugby but it gets you ready for the physicality of Super League.”
O’Neill says he’s looking forward to playing at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on May 28, having been to Wembley multiple times as a fan.
“It’ll be nice to play in a Challenge Cup final, it’s something that you dream of, especially with me being a Wigan fan,” he said.
“I’ve watched them both win and lose them.
“I remember as a kid travelling down to London in the early mornings just dreaming of playing in one yourself. Hopefully I get that opportunity.
“The stadium looks good, so the boys can’t wait to play there and hopefully bring back the silverware.
“We’ve got a job to do against Hull FC before that. We have to carry on building, getting better and ticking boxes.”