Sean O'Loughlin wants one more year with Wigan Warriors
Wigan and England captain Sean O'Loughlin has confirmed his intention to play on in 2020 as he prepares to step up his bid for glory with club and country.
The veteran loose forward, who turns 37 in November, is once more out of contract having signed on for another 12 months last October, but expects to sit down with the Warriors at the end of the season to thrash out one last deal.
"I've not sorted anything as yet but I would like to go round for one more year," O'Loughlin said. "We'll sort that out towards the back end (of the year)."
Wigan coach Adrian Lam recently extended his own contract for 2020 and expects his captain to do likewise.
"I think in the past, it's a conversation that just happens between the club and Lockers," Lam said. "No doubt that will happen again."
Lam has already started grooming O'Loughlin's likely successor in the number 13 shirt, teenager Morgan Smithies, and has given plenty of game time to other promising forwards such as Oliver Partington and Liam Byrne but he believes the long-serving O'Loughlin still has a major role to play.
"I'm bringing through as many young players as I can and to help develop them, there's nothing better than having a senior player like Sean there," he said.
"The value of him to those young players and preparing Wigan with the next generation is priceless so I think he'll have a role there whether he plays or not."
O'Loughlin has made just two substitute appearances in the last three months due to calf and pectoral injuries and Wigan have learned how to win games without their inspirational captain.
However, he is back in time for the play-offs and says he is content to play a support role.
"I'm alright on the bench," he said. "Morgan, as well as Ollie and Liam Byrne, have been a real breath of fresh air for us.
"Sometimes coaches' hands are forced into playing young lads but all three of those lads have not only come in and done a job, they've excelled and they're regulars now."
Wigan have surged into a second-place finish to put themselves two games away from a second-successive Grand Final and on Friday take on Salford in the qualifying semi-final at the DW Stadium, with the winners playing St Helens for a trip to Old Trafford.
After that, O'Loughlin's thoughts will turn to the international scene and the chance to pull on a Lions jersey once more for the end-of-season tour to New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
He made his Great Britain debut in the 2004 Tri-Nations Series against Australia and the memories came flooding back at the first get-together of the GB performance squad in Leeds last week.
"It got the excitement going," O'Loughlin said. "Adrian Morley came in and had a chat to the players about what it meant to him growing up watching Great Britain and playing for them.
"My international experience was pretty similar. I played for Great Britain first, then England, and I watched Great Britain on the telly growing up."
O'Loughlin is expected to take on the captaincy of Wayne Bennett's touring squad but insists it is not something he craves.
"I always say my focus is not about being captain of the side," he said. "I want to be part of the tour, I want to be part of the team, not to be captain. Captaincy is always like a bonus on the back of that."