Jake Shorrocks will re-live the moment he thought his world had come crashing down when he runs out for the Super League Grand Final on Saturday.
The 20-year-old half-back’s first close-up experience of Old Trafford was almost shattered by a prank by Wigan and England full-back Sam Tomkins.
“In 2010 I was a ball boy with my mate Nick Gregson, who has also played a few games for the first team, and I was stood in the tunnel while all the players walk past and Sam Tomkins knocked the ball out of my hands,” Shorrocks recalled.
“It went rolling down the tunnel. I thought I was going to get shouted at.”
Shorrocks survived the experience and, six years on, he will get the chance to run out onto the big stage as one of a host of youthful replacements for Wigan’s injured stars, Tomkins among them, as the Warriors take on Warrington in the title decider.
Shorrocks has witnessed all nine previous Grand Finals featuring his home-town club but he was watching in a knee brace 12 months ago after suffering a cruel injury blow playing for the academy.
“I had a partial tear in my ACL and also did my meniscus so I did a full job,” he said. “When I got told how serious it was, I was absolutely devastated. But it stood me in good stead.”
Tomkins was at the youngster’s side throughout his lengthy rehabilitation as he recovered from a similar injury and the pair eventually became team-mates.
Shorrocks made his Super League debut at Widnes in May as a replacement for stand-off George Williams and, after playing in 11 of Wigan’s last 13 matches of the season, providing back-up for hooker Sam Powell, has forced his way into coach Shaun Wane’s team for Old Trafford.
“I only made my debut in May and, if someone had told me I’d be playing in the Grand Final at the end of the year, I’d have snatched their hands off,” he said.
“My main aim at the start of the year was to get myself fit and hopefully make my debut and play a few games. I didn’t expect to be up for selection for the Grand Final.
“I’m coming off the bench and playing okay at the moment. Waney is happy to put me there and I’m happy to play there. I’ve only ever played hooker at Super League level, not even academy or reserve grade, but Shaun’s helped me out a lot and so too has Sam Powell.”
Shorrocks is confident he will hold himself together for the biggest match of his fledgling career but he is not so sure about the rest of his family.
“It will be a proud moment for myself and my family,” he said. “They’re all massive Wigan fans. Hopefully my grandad doesn’t cry.”