Wigan Warriors release short film celebrating their 150th anniversary

Wigan Warriors have released a seven-minute film to celebrate their 150th anniversary ahead of this week’s Challenge Cup final.

The poignant piece, named ‘Wigan Peerless,’ includes clips from throughout the club’s incredible history, and highlights the key figures over the years who have helped to make it what it is today, with rugby league legend Martin Offiah providing the narration.

Poet Tony Walsh was asked to write the words to accompany the video, which he produced through talking to fans of the club.

He said: “I wanted to write something that everyone from the people who serve in the canteen or the person on the gate of the car park would feel like they are playing a part in the next chapter of Wigan’s success story.

A short film has been released to celebrate Wigan Warriors' 150th anniversary

“From watching the sport in the 80s and the 90s I was very well aware of the legacy of the club.

“When I looked into it more deeply, spending time with Kris (Radlinski) and the chairman and having a couple of hours with a group of fans, I came away with 30 or 40 sheets of flipchart paper, covered in words of what the club meant to people.

“You can be leaving the room and someone will say something, and that could be the hook for the poem. Someone said something about Wigan Pier, and the opportunity to say something about them being ‘peerless’ came to mind. Which feels like an iconic phrase.

“When that came together, then I had hit my stride. The poem was a joy to write, I moved myself a few times. The imagery and the visuals really did it justice.

“It’s safe to say there were more than a few tears when I brought it back and shared it with the fans. It’s a massive responsibility, and it’s not just about the past, it’s about the present and the future as well.

“I’m very proud to play a part in the club’s story at this important time. I’m asked to write a lot about sport, so you sit down with a good awareness of the spirit and the passion. Write a lot about place, community and spirit. I get what a sports team means to a small town.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the reaction now.”

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Offiah says he was honoured to be asked to read the poem and says he wanted to get everything right in order to inspire future generations who may see the video.

“I haven’t got a Wigan accent, but having spent time here, I wanted to do justice to the project and the terminology,” he explained.

“I wanted to make people feel, and I suppose that’s also what I tried to do as a player.

“I thought this is something that is going to inform, inspire and connect with future generations. I like to think the things I did on the field will stand the test of time, so I knew this was very important and I didn’t take it lightly.

“Wigan has a long rich history, they’ve done things that are unparalleled. Everyone is thoroughly celebrated.

“I read the poem in bits at first, and just got into it, feeling it. I just remember being in this studio doing it in different ways.

“There are quite a few parallels between performing and playing rugby. When I got up in the morning, I felt like I was going to play a game. I was really pumped and in some ways I had to control my emotions.

“It was very emotional and I hope that came out. A bit like a game, you could feel the pace of the poem pick up.

“I was quite moved seeing the video for the first time. It made me think of Maurice (Lindsay), it made me think of Shaun Edwards. It reminded me how I felt waking up in 1994 after going through a tough time. It just reminded me of everything.”

The film’s producer Phil Pickard says he was very keen to incorporate every aspect of Wigan’s 150 year history.

He also believes Offiah brought something special to the piece with his delivery.

“Reading a poem is very difficult and there was nervousness around asking a sportsman to do it because he isn’t trained in this, but he responded instinctively and wholeheartedly, which made it easy from my point of view,” he said.

“One thing we were keen to do when we were putting the pictures to this wonderful poem was remembering the whole 150 years.

“It would’ve been easy to make it about the last 30 years when we’ve got bundles of television footage to tell the story. We’ve not got much from before that, so we tried to introduce stills to make that connection with the people then.

“We wanted to remember that link between the town and the club, which have been through thick and thin together. Pulling together in the same direction is what Wigan does well.”

Wigan’s executive director Kris Radlinski hopes the film can be something for the entire town to enjoy.

He stated: “It’s obviously a celebration of 150 years, and we had to do that, but it comes from a great place of humility from us all. This is not a self indulgent piece, it is almost a gift to the town and a tip of the hat to our history.

“We are incredibly humbled and honoured to be part of this project.”