MICKY McIlorum is in line to make a landmark 200th appearance for Wigan.
The Leeds-born hooker has been at the Warriors since joining the club’s academy in 2005 and was given his debut back in 2007 under Brian Noble.
He spent a spell as back-up hooker but, when Mark Riddell cut short his deal to return at the end of 2010, he got his shot in the No.9 shirt he craved.
Since then, he has become an England international and his all-action performances prompted Shaun Wane to nominate him as the leading contender for this year’s Man of Steel.
The 27-year-old has won every domestic trophy on offer during his time at the clubs, and admits that hitting this milestone is something to be proud of.
“I didn’t realise it was my 200th to be honest but it’s great if I can do that,” he said.
“When you make your debut, you’re just happy to be in the team and then you’re just fighting to keep your spot.
“Then before you know it, you’ve hit 150 and now 200 is coming up so it’s a great achievement.”
McIlorum is only 88kg (13.8st), but is rated by Sam Tomkins as “easily the toughest” team-mate he has ever had.
Capable of rattling Super League defences with his unforgiving, combative style, he has this year imposed himself more in attack – at Wane’s instruction.
At the Magic Weekend in Manchester last year, he was outstanding in harassing his opposing pack, laying the foundations for an 18-14 win against Leeds – playing in the alien position of loose forward.
Afterwards, when his coach Shaun Wane said he had inched ahead of James Roby as England’s best hooker, no-one smirked.
Wane believes his toughness stems from his rough upbringing in Leeds – which he escaped as a teenager to avoid the trap-falls of criminality.
“I got offered a deal at Leeds which was better than Wigan’s, but I just wanted to get away,” McIlorum revealed candidly recently.
“I saw my mates getting into trouble and I thought, ‘If I stay in Leeds I could go down that path’.”
McIlorum’s father died when he was just 18 – “Dean Bell told me... that was a life-changer” – and during his early years at Wigan he admitted he had a wild side, which he has tamed under the guidance of his mentor.
“Thankfully there aren’t many of those now,” he said. “I owe everything to Shaun really.”
Wane has given his hooker a leadership role at Wigan and, with 200 appearances for the club on the horizon, McIlorum wants to be a role model for the younger players.
“It doesn’t seem two minutes ago since I was the young kid coming through and now I’m one of the older fellas, and you’ve got to help the younger players out,” he said.
“There’s not many other old players in the team apart from Lockers, Matty Bowen and Matty Smith.
“I had Lockers to look up to in my time as it’s good to have someone to look up to. So I try to inspire and show the young kids what to do and how to perform well.”
Over the 200 games, McIlorum has had many successes and played under successful coaches in Michael Maguire and Shaun Wane, therefore making it difficult for him to pick out a main highlight.
“We’ve had a bit of success over the last four or five years so it’s hard to put your finger on one,” he said.
“Obviously winning the first Grand Final in 2010, and then winning the double with Waney, they’re magical moments so it is very difficult to pick just one.”