Sean O'Loughlin hailed 'best ever' ahead of special Wigan Warriors milestone
Thomas Leuluai has saluted Sean O’Loughlin as the greatest player he’s ever seen ahead of his 450th game for Wigan tonight.
Captain O’Loughlin will reach the milestone if he features in the play-offs showdown at St Helens, with a place in the Grand Final up for grabs.
“What do you say? He’s literally the best I’ve seen,” said Leuluai, who has played with and against some of the game’s modern masters.
“Everyone knows he’s got the skill and the toughness, but people maybe under-estimate the vision he has.
“When you need the ball in the right spot, he’s generally the guy who sees it and delivers it. He can do it all.
“I remember when I was in the New Zealand squad, and because I played over here, players would ask me about the England players.
“I always told them about Lockers and after the game they give me the nod to say, ‘Yeah, you were right’, and I smiled because I knew I was right!
“And this isn’t just me, speak to anyone who has played with or against him. You find me a player who doesn’t rate him highly – I honestly don’t think you could.”
O’Loughlin, who debuted in 2002, is out of contract at the end of this season but has made no secret of his desire to play on.
He has spent his club career with his hometown club and is seventh on the all-time appearance list.
“I said after his debut he was the real deal,” said Adrian Lam, who was a team-mate.
“He was only a kid but he had that temperament, you look at the great players and they have composure, and Lockers had that then.”
Wigan were ninth at the end of May but have lost just one game since then, and a victory tonight would book them a place in the Grand Final.
Lose, and they will get a second shot next Friday.
“I knew even then we had a crack at the five and once we got there we’d give it a go,” said Lam. “But to be here now... I’ve got to pinch myself really.
“It’s exciting because it’s surreal. But the players believe in each other, and in the last six weeks you can see the belief. It’s a case of ‘here we go’, let’s finish on our terms.”
St Helens are favourites to win but their failure to reach either final last year – and their loss to Wembley in August this season – has put their big-game credentials under sharper focus.
Asked whether they will be under pressure to shake their ‘nearly men’ tag, Lam replied: “Everyone is under pressure. I don’t think anyone goes into any game without nerves and pressure... we’ve had pressure for 12 weeks.”