Mickey Higham admits there might be ‘a few tears’ as he closes the door on an 18-year playing career against former club Wigan on Sunday.
The 37-year-old hooker will run out for one last time as Leigh, where he is now a member of the non-playing staff, take on the Warriors at Leigh Sports Village.
Higham, who announced his retirement in November, spent three seasons at the DW Stadium after arriving from a successful stint at St Helens, via Bradford where he didn’t play a game, from 2006-’08.
And although his time as a Warrior brought no honours, the Billinge-born veteran says he was honoured to wear the cherry and white.
“It was a privileged to play for Wigan, I had three good years there,” he told the Wigan Post.
“I got on well with the lads and made some good friends, and it wasn’t my decision to leave. It was a bit ironic, really – in ‘08 I got back playing well enough to get into the England World Cup squad but they didn’t want to keep me on.”
Higham played 97 games for Wigan, scoring 17 tries.
After helping Wigan avoid relegation in 2006, Warriors reached the Challenge Cup and Super League play-off semi-finals in 2007, but were unsuccessful in both against Catalans and Leeds respectively.
“I don’t think Catalans will ever play that well again,” he said of the Challenge Cup semi-final which Wigan lost 37-24 to deny them a place at the first final at Wembley since it had been rebuilt.
“We had a good back end of that first season and then we had two good years, Trent Barrett and Tommy Leuluai came in and we got to a couple of semis.” As for preparing for his last game, Higham has joined Leigh’s troops to build
some match fitness for Sunday, but admits he will just be happy not to embarrass himself.
“I’ve jumped in for the last couple of weeks, I’m hoping ing the miles in the legs may get me through, but I don’t want to embarrass myself,” he said.
“I said ‘I may look like a prat but I don’t want to look like a complete prat.
“I’ll try and enjoy it. I’ve got more emotional the older I’ve got so there may be a few tears there but that’s only because I’ve loved what I’ve done for the last few years.”
Warriors players Sean O’Loughlin and Joel Tomkins are two of three the Wigan players to have been at the club during his time there (with Tommy Leuluai) and both paid tribute to the former international who has four caps each for GB and England.
O’Loughlin said: “He’s a top bloke. I’d been involved with him at GB and knew him quite well.
He’s a great character, a bubbly bloke but he was one of the best nines around.
“Some of the times were quite difficult, but he always made the period put smiles on people’s faces.”
Higham moved on to Warrington after Wigan, where he won the Challenge Cup in 2010, and returned to Leigh in 2015. But dropping below Super League was no reflection on Higham’s ability according to the Wigan skipper.
“During his time at Leigh he was still playing at a high standard,” said O’Loughlin.
“He had good skill and service with what he did with the ball, but he’d go all day chopping people down.
“He was a smart player.”
And Tomkins also has good memories of being in the same side as Higham, despite Wigan’s lack of success on the field.
“Mickey was a great player for us,” said Tomkins.
“It wasn’t a very successful period for the club when he was here but I think he was one of the stand-out players during that time.
“He’s done a lot in the game so hopefully he can get a good send-off in that friendly. Hopefully it will be special for him.”