WHEN Joel Tomkins walked down the red-carpet onto the DW Stadium pitch less than 12 months ago, Ian Lenagan declared: “Let them go and they’ll come back to Wigan. Joel is the first.”
Months later, Lee Mossop - on a winter visit home from Parramatta - decided to cut short his deal and return.
And now Sam Tomkins has decided to do the same.
He will be playing for the Warriors of Wigan, rather than the New Zealand variety, next season.
His capture wasn’t a surprise - but then surprise gifts aren’t always the best ones!
Chairman Lenagan had let all three leave before the end of their contracts - netting transfer fees of close to £1m for the club - and yet all three were drawn back before their contracts expired.
There is an undeniable magnetism to Wigan.
Is it because it’s the town where their friends and family are? Yes. Is it because of the club’s history and fan-base? Yes.
But there’s much more than that.
Perhaps most pertinently, this is the club where the Tomkins brothers - and Mossop - made history.
Remember, they were all in the team when the Warriors were the perennial under-achievers of Super League. When hopes of trophies ended prematurely, usually at the semi-final stage.
That was until 2010, when Michael Maguire’s arrival proved the catalyst for a seismic shift.
It was Sam Tomkins who scored a stunning try when Wigan won the Grand Final that year - their first title since 1998, when the fleet-footed full-back was still at primary school.
The year later, he crabbed across Leeds’ defensive line to send his older brother Joel away for one of the greatest tries ever at Wembley - in a final Mossop dislocated his shoulder in, and still, incredibly, played on.
Rather than be burdened by the club’s immense history, they became a part of it. They wrote their own history.
So, when Tomkins announced he wanted to return to England, it was no surprise he chose the club which l launched him into superstardom.
The 26-year-old, like the other two who returned, could surely have earned more money had he either stayed put or gone elsewhere - but Wigan is where his heart is.
Perhaps he is coming back to the DW earlier than many would have expected. He is a worldly person, not averse to spending days off in London, weeks off in Las Vegas or New York. He doesn’t crave the spotlight but he’s comfortable in it, even if it involves interviewing Russell Crowe on a red-carpet.
Most fans understood why he wanted to test himself in the NRL, and Tomkins himself admits he felt a homesickness he could never have envisaged. It’s not because he couldn’t hack it Down Under - put that accusation to bed right now.
Fans elsewhere may look on in envy at Wigan’s recruitment, but they should see Tomkins’ capture for what it is - a huge boost for the credibility of the Super League competition.
The ‘player drain’ is over-stated; currently, George Burgess and James Graham are the only two other English A-listers in the NRL who were lured from Super League. There are other ‘Poms’, for sure; but none which sell tickets like Tomkins.
He became the English game’s most marketable star for a reason. He has the speed, the swerves, and more steps than the Sydney Opera House. He has the ability to pinball through defences and conjure up chances from nowhere.
And, of course, he has that ‘Scrappy Do’ fighting spirit which makes him the pantomime villain among opposing fans... but a hero among his own.
Welcome home Sam.