Sean O’Loughlin believes the retirement age of Super League players will creep up – as he hopes to extend his own career by at least another year.
Tomorrow’s showdown at Leeds will see two of the competition’s elder statesmen go head-to-head.
Leeds veteran Jamie Jones-Buchanan is a year older than O’Loughlin, 35, and the pair are still playing big roles for their sides.
They aren’t even the oldest players in Super League – Warrington’s Ben Westwood is a week older than Jones-Buchanan – and Wigan skipper O’Loughlin wouldn’t be surprised to see more players, particularly forwards, play on for longer.
“I do think the age of the retirement will creep up,” he said. “And that’s down to the science and training smarter, it’s more precise, physios are better. Even with operations, there have been advances.
“The difference between now and when I started, in terms of the protocols in place, are of a higher-standard.
“It’s going to be harder for a wing to play until he’s 35 but if you defend in the middle, there’s more of a chance.”
Shaun Wane joked he wanted his captain to play until he is 45 following his starring role in Saturday’s 32-23 victory at Catalans.
And while O’Loughlin has not put a finish date on his glittering career, he is hoping to play on in 2019.
“I don’t think I’ll make 45! I’d be disappointed if I hung my boots up too soon, but I’ve got to do the right thing for me and the club,” he said.
“If I’m playing alright after the summer towards the end of the season I’m sure we will have a conversation then and hopefully I’ll be around next year as well.” O’Loughlin and his former England team-mate Jones-Buchanan can trace their battles against each other back to when they were in rival academy sides at the turn of the millennium.
“When we were coming through, Wigan and Leeds had the best academy sides and we had a rivalry then,” said O’Loughlin.
“It’s great to see him have the career he’s had. Jamie is going really well, he’s a big player for them.
“We’ve seen players like JP (Jamie Peacock), Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow go but Jonesy is there and he’s the heartbeat of the club.
“Not being involved, I don’t know the ins and outs, but I’m sure he’s driving standards off the field and on it he’s still contributing.”
Wane has replaced Ben Flower (concussion protocol) with Frenchman Morgan Escare in his 19-man squad.
Friday’s game at Headingley kicks off at 7.45pm.