Sean O’Loughlin revealed he had ‘given up hope’ of playing in last month’s Grand Final victory over Warrington – but some outside help from Manchester City helped him onto the field.
The Warriors captain was brought into Shaun Wane’s side for the title decider at the 11th hour, at the expense of youngster Jake Shorrocks, after recovering from a calf injury sustained in the warm-up for the Super 8s clash with Catalans on September 23.
It was a big call by Waney and if I’d put my hand up and not played, it was taking a Grand Final chance off someoneSean O’Loughlin
O’Loughlin revealed head physio Jo Seddon and head of performance Mark Bitcon hatched a plan to get the 34-year-old onto the pitch at Old Trafford, and called on Mark’s brother Simon, who is head of strength and conditioning at Manchester City, to lend his expertise.
“It was Mark Bitcon and Jo, they put a programme together,” explained O’Loughlin.
“We went over to Man City and did some work with them. They let us use their facilities, we spent two weeks before the game there, and Jo bounced ideas off with their physio.
“We threw everything at it and it came good. Simon (Bitcon) is there, they had a player there who had similar kinds of issues, so they bounced off some ideas and it came good in the end.
“I’d literally not done anything for three weeks before the final, I’d given up hope.”
O’Loughlin, who picked-up the Super League trophy for a third time thanks to the 12-6 win over the Wolves, admitted it was ‘a big call’ for Wane to give him the nod, as he hadn’t featured since a 60-12 win over Wakefield in August.
But he came off the bench to play his part in the memorable night, which capped an unforgettably injury-hit season in the best possible way for his club.
“It was a big call by Waney (to pick me) and if I’d put my hand up and not played, it was taking a Grand Final chance off someone,” O’Loughlin explained.
“I was pretty nervous before the game – not for the game itself, but just to come through it okay.”
Now O’Loughlin has the benefit of having a full pre-season in front of him, having sat out of England’s Four Nations campaign to recover fully before Wigan’s title defence.
And while the skipper has taken time to recuperate, he has been keeping fit to ensure there are no issues with getting up to speed in pre-season. “I had a good couple weeks off and then I got back into it,” he said.
“A friend of a friend has a crossfit gym, so I did some sessions there to tick over. If you don’t do anything it makes it too hard.”
Next season will be O’Loughlin’s 16th in the first team ranks since making his debut against Hull FC back in 2002.
He had to wait until 2010 for his first taste of silverware in a Wigan shirt, and has made-up for lean times in the earlier part of his career with three league title and two Challenge Cups safely etched onto his record since.
But O’Loughlin says he still has a hunger for more success to feed, and the feeling from last season’s title glory is making the whole squad determined for a repeat.
“There’s still a determination, there’s a bit of a buzz after the final,” he said.