Tony Clubb will have his loved ones watching him at Wembley – but an absent member of his family will also be in his thoughts.
In between dealing with two serious and well-documented injuries, he had to deal with the death of his dad, Michael.
Opening his heart for the first time about the tragedy, the prop says he was rocked by the loss – and revealed how the love of his family helped him.
“I was very close to my dad,” said Clubb. “He watched me all through my career. He was there for my England debut, my London debut, my Wigan debut... he passed at Christmas so he didn’t get to see me win my first medal (in the World Club Challenge).
“And he won’t watch me here now.
“He had cancer – pretty aggressively – and they moved him from the hospital to a hospice, to make him more comfortable, and he passed just before Christmas.
Whenever I was down, Waney was always on the end of a phone, telling me things I needed to hear
“It’s tough but, as a person, you have to deal with it. Everyone has setbacks and it’s how you deal with it.”
Clubb says the support he received from his wife, Liz, the love of his two children and the comforting words of Shaun Wane helped him adjust to the loss.
Wane dealt with the death of his own dad in 2013.
“I have a good support network. My wife, kids, and to be honest with you, Shaun Wane,” he said.
“Whenever I was down, Waney was always on the end of a phone, always giving me words of encouragement – telling me things I needed to hear.”
To say Clubb has had a tough year would be an understatement.
Sandwiching the death of his dad was a serious, career-threatening back injury and then this year, he needed a kidney removed.
“I’m proud of myself for bouncing back, because the two surgeries were massive – on my spine and kidneys – and in the middle of all that, I lost my dad. It was tough,” he said.
“But my missus, Liz, was fantastic. I couldn’t drive for a long time, so anywhere I needed to be, she took me. We’ve two kids as well, she looked after them, as well as making sure I was at appointments.... and people don’t see that.
“They don’t see the sacrifices our loved ones make for us. I couldn’t thank her enough, really.”
Londoner Clubb, who started playing league with amateur outfit Greenwich Admirals, will have his own fan-club of relatives and mates watching him play live for the first time on Saturday.
“Many of them haven’t watched rugby league before, and that’s what makes it special for me,” said the 30-year-old.
“I have uncles and aunts who don’t get to see me play, and they’ll see me walk out there in front of thousands of people, in a massive occasion. It’s special, I can’t tell you how excited I am. And it’s at Wembley, too.”
Clubb has not been to the stadium since it was redeveloped – “I only went to the old one once, and that was on a school trip” – but is well aware of the venue’s history.
“It’s an iconic stadium, isn’t it? If it’s at Wembley, it’s a big event,” he said.
“You watch on TV the England football team, the NFL... it’s only the big teams who get to play there.
“I know Wigan has a history in the competition. I remember watching Martin Offiah score there – my body doesn’t look it, but I was a centre or winger when I started out, so I used to watch the backs.
“To get the chance to play there myself is surreal, really. I came here in 2014, the year after they did the double, and so for players like me – and the lads like George and Gilly, who haven’t been there either - you can feel the excitement.
“We know we’ve got a job on our hands, because Hull are a big, physical team - they have wingers built like front-rowers - but it’s a job we know we can do.”
Warriors at Wembley – don’t miss your super 16-page supplement in the Wigan Observer, on sale now.