Wigan Warriors: Sam Tomkins says reaching the Challenge Cup final means nothing if you lose

Sam Tomkins says players become “numb” to the atmosphere surrounding the Challenge Cup final once the game kicks off.

By Amos Wynn
Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 12:00 pm

The fullback won the competition in 2011 and 2013 during his first stint with Wigan Warriors.

Tomkins states the occasion is a unique experience, but winning will still remain the only target for the two teams involved.

He said: “Growing up watching rugby league you know and fully understand the importance and history behind the Challenge Cup. The magic of it wasn’t anything new, but being a part of it was.

Sign up to our Wigan Warriors newsletter

Sam Tomkins won the Challenge Cup with Wigan Warriors in 2011 and 2013

“I didn’t really feel any pressure at all in 2011. I was a young kid, and I was just excited to play at Wembley.

“The week building up to it is a little different. We had experienced a Grand Final before, where the media pressure is huge because it’s the last game of the season, but you don’t have that for the Challenge Cup.

“What you do recognise is, people around the town talking about it. The older ones like it, so a lot of them will be stopping lads in the street and making sure they know.

“It’s great when you walk out, and the Wigan fans go mad as you enter the field. It’s a special buzz. You get a taste of it when there’s a big game at the DW, but when you put it in a final, in a big stadium, it’s that atmosphere 10 times over.

“That feeling soon goes, as soon as the ball is kicked off, you’re numb to any of the crowd noise. For people who haven’t experienced it, I’d just say soak up those first two or three minutes when you walk out there because it soon goes.

“Once you are playing, you can’t hear anything, you’re just in the moment. We just wanted to win. If I had gone to the Challenge Cup and lost, I wouldn’t care, The final means nothing if you lose. That’s the pressure you put on yourself.

“Confidence in the team never changed from the first final to however many we played, but you do start to fully understand the feeling of winning because you know how good it is.

“It’s like having kids. People say it’s the best thing in the world, but you don’t know that until you have your own. Once you’ve done it you just want it again.

“I had to share my lifting of the trophy in 2011 with Lee Mossop because he had dislocated his shoulder in the game and couldn’t lift it up.

“It was amazing standing up there and seeing the fans going mad. You can see yourself and the rest of the boys in the line on the big screen. When you’re in the queue you can’t see anyone else.

“The fans pay the money to go and watch. The reason they follow teams is because they want them to be successful. No one can be happy following a team that never wins, so it repays them when we lift silverware in front of them.”

Tomkins says the meaning of the Challenge Cup would’ve been drilled into the overseas players in the Wigan squad throughout their run to the final at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

“Jai Field and the others wouldn’t have cared about the Challenge Cup before they joined the club,” he stated.

“I’m sure that now they know the history of it and what it means.

“Matty Peet will be making sure they know the importance of it. It’s equal to the Grand Final in my eyes.

“In 2011 we had Michael Maguire there, and he made a real point of making sure the overseas players all understood how important it was for the people of Wigan. He did a really good job of that.

“We had a really tough run that year, so it meant a little bit more because it is special when you have that. We were supremely confident going into it, because of the teams we had knocked out.

“Wigan have done the same this year, they’ve gone and beaten Saints, who are clearly the best team, to get to the final.”