PAT Richards was hailed a legend as he prepares to play his final match at the DW Stadium.
Team-mates old and current showered him with praise ahead of tonight’s play-off semi-final against Leeds – which he admits will be an emotional affair.
“I can’t believe it, all this time, eight years and it’s coming to an end now,” said the goal-kicking winger, returning to the NRL with Wests.
“I never expected to stay so long, but that just shows how much I love it here. The people, the places, it’s been great and I’ve made a lot of friends and memories here.”
Those who know him well were quick to salute him ahead of his home farewell.
Former team-mate Trent Barrett told the Wigan Observer: “Still to this day I say two of my favourite years playing footy were at Wigan – and Pat was a big reason why.
“I remember one of the first conversations I had with Pat were reminding him how good he was.
“He was coming off a tough season at Wigan and a bit down on his ability. He quickly turned that around!
“He was a player that could read a game and just knew where to be and I always felt confident knowing he would do a job for our team. He’s also a great fella and deserves every accolade for his time at Wigan.”
Former hooker Mark Riddell said he was “an absolute legend to play alongside.”
Legend Kris Radlinski played alongside the winger briefly when he came out of retirement in 2006. He has since seen him flourish, and said: “Pat will go down as a Wigan great. He has embraced Wigan life to the full and done so with great humility.
“He has worn the famous number 5 jersey with distinction and should feel comfortable alongside Boston and Offiah.”
Wigan have unveiled a plaque at their Orrell training ground, renaming the video suite ‘The Pat Richards Room’.
Coach Shaun Wane - whose involvement with Wigan goes back more than three decades – reckons Richards will go down as one of the club’s top three Australians. “And as a man, he’s even higher,” he said.
Captain Sean O’Loughlin added: “Pat’s not only one of the best team-mates I’ve had, he’s also one of my best mates.
“He’s got to be up there with the best overseas signings this club has ever had.”
Here are five reasons why Richards will be fondly remembered by fans:
Incredibly, Richards has only booted four drop-goals in eight years at Wigan. Incredible, because two of them are among the greatest seen at the club! In 2007, he struck a dramatic one-pointer to seal a sensational play-off tie at Bradford (left). The Warriors trailed 30-6 early in the second-half but roared back to level the score, before an ice-cool Richards sealed a momentous victory. That drop-goal was eclipsed, in terms of quality, by his monster effort against St Helens earlier this year. Just inside the opposing half, he received a scrappy pass and - under pressure - let fly with a stunning effort from just inside the touchline. It was tracked at 52 metres - just 3m shy of Joe Lydon’s world record in 1989.
His silverware haul:
Richards will take home a Grand Final winner’s ring and two Challenge Cup medals from his time at Wigan. He also helped Wigan win the league leaders shield on two occasions. In 2010, he finished the Super League season as top try-scorer (with 29) and clinched the Man of Steel, becoming only the fifth Aussie to claim the individual prize since its inception in 1977. He was named International Winger of the Year.
His partnership with George Carmont:
Ashton and Boston, Miles and Offiah, Carmont and Richards. Their centre-wing partnership was more than prolific; it was water-tight defensively, and so slick and seamless it bordered on the telepathic.
His 38 points in a Super League win against Catalan in 2010 - from five tries and nine goals - is the most ever scored by a Wigan player in a league game. Jim Sullivan (44) Martin Offiah and Shaun Edwards (40 each) scored more in Cup matches. Richards’ 166 tries puts him 16th on the club’s all-time tryscoring list, a place behind a certain Jason Robinson, and he is third on their points-scoring charts behind Sullivan and Andy Farrell.
His loyalty and longevity:
Richards’ first year was Brett Dallas’ seventh at the club. “If someone had said I’d top that, I’d never have believed them,” said Richards, who has become the club’s longest serving Australian since Hector Gee (1932-44). “That just shows how much I love the place,” he said.