Adrian Lam on the 'kindred spirit' with ex-Wigan Warriors team-mate Dave Furner

Adrian Lam and Dave Furner made their Wigan debuts together nearly 18 years ago to the day
Adrian Lam and Dave Furner made their Wigan debuts together nearly 18 years ago to the day

Nearly 18 years ago to the day, Adrian Lam and Dave Furner made their Wigan debuts together at the DW - then JJB - Stadium.

And tonight, they return to the venue for the first time as Super League head coaches.

Dave Furner and Adrian Lam won the 2002 Challenge Cup together

Dave Furner and Adrian Lam won the 2002 Challenge Cup together

Lam will, of course, be taking charge of the Warriors for the first time at home - at a stadium where he cast his legacy - while Furner will be at the helm of the visitors, Leeds Rhinos, in a hotly-anticipated showdown.

“I made my debut here with Dave Furner and we’re both coming back here for the first time,” said Lam. “When we played in the same side together, I just remembered sitting in the dressing room, that when I saw him I felt at ease and comfortable - and there’ll be Leeds players who will feel that, too.”

Furner spent two years at Wigan, winning the Challenge Cup with Lam in 2002, before moving on to Leeds.

“There’s definitely a kindred spirit there,” said Lam, remembering their Murrayfield victory against St Helens.

“When I see him, I have that feeling of gratitude and love I suppose, that you’ve shared a moment with someone that neither of you will ever forget. Every time I shake his hand, I get goose bumps thinking about it. I love having a beer with him and reminiscing about how young we were when we played here! And I certainly wish him all the best at Leeds.”

Furner is heading up a squad which has spent money in the off-season to bring in three high-profile recruits from the NRL.

And one of them, Trent Merrin, is a player Lam knows well from his time as Australia’s assistant coach.

“Trent’s a great person for starters, in that team-mates will love playing alongside him,” he said. “As a forward he was one of our best in the Kangaroos - great footwork, an offload, and he can lead their go-forward.”

Leeds, like Wigan, are seeking their first win of the campaign after their 26-6 loss at Warrington last Saturday.

“I think everyone was surprised, and no doubt the new coach is disappointed,” said Lam. “They’ve been a great club and we’re not going to take them lightly.

“This week has been about us - it’s important for me that we see the changes to the performance at St Helens - but we certainly have a healthy respect for Leeds.”

Furner is remembered fondly for the impact he made in the cherry and white.

“My time at Wigan was special, and I’ve said it to the players here, it’s a privilege to come and play this competition,” said Furner, who left his role as Souths assistant coach to join the Rhinos.

“If you come over with the right attitude to play your best football, you’ll have the best time. And if you’re lucky enough to win something, you don’t lose it – it stays with you forever, and when you run into your old team-mates you feel that connection.

“At the end of the day, the players have their jersey and it’s only temporary. It’s all about what you do in that jersey while you’ve got it. Lammy and I came over together in 2001 and we’ve both come back at the same time to coach, which is nice.”

Not all the Wigan players have moved on from Furner’s time at the club. His former team-mates Kris Radlinski, Mick Cassidy and Paul Johnson have off-field roles, while captain Sean O’Loughlin is still going strong.

“Lockers was only a kid then but you could see what player he was going to be,” said Furner. “He was good pedigree, he had a very good brother-in-law as a leader, he and was always going to lead. It looks like he’s going to be a one club man as a player which is pretty special."

Kick-off tonight is 7.45pm.