Micky McIlorum has been hailed the toughest player of Wigan’s modern era ahead of his testimonial game.
Team-mates past and present, as well as opponents, have praised the Wigan No.9, who launches his special season with a friendly against Leigh today (Sunday).
Sam Tomkins described the combative hooker as “easily the toughest” player he has encountered during his career.
And former stand-off Blake Green agreed – high-praise indeed from a player who spent the last two years with Melbourne Storm.
“Micky is the toughest player I’ve ever played with,” said Green, now at Manly. “He always led the way with his actions and someone the team loves playing alongside.
“He should be tremendously proud of what he’s achieved. He’s such a popular character and he made my time in Wigan even more enjoyable, it was great to win some big wins with him.”
I know fans regard him highly. Believe me, players rate him even higherAdrian Morley
McIlorum will miss his benefit game at the Sports Village (kick-off 3pm) as he awaits further surgery on the ankle he broke last year ago playing against Brisbane.
He has his eyes fixed on a return to action in around two months, and prop Ben Flower has little doubt he will soon get his match-fitness back.
“He’s hardly been training, but the other day we were doing four in fives – four laps of the pitch in five minutes – and he destroyed it,” said the Welshman. “Not many players in Super League would have got the time he did, he just toughs everything out. I can’t wait to see him back.
“He’s renowned for being a big hitter – there aren’t many in the competition who can bang like he does. The boys who play at other teams I know, they tell you he rocks your teeth!”
Forward Joel Tomkins likened his aggression to a predecessor in the Wigan No.9 shirt.
“I was very lucky to play alongside Terry Newton in my first season here,” said Tomkins. “And like Tez, Micky has that intimidation factor. “Opponents just aren’t quite as good when they’re playing Micky, and it puts you on the front-foot straight away.”
Former team-mate Lee Mossop, now at Salford, said: “To play 10 years is a feat in itself, especially the way he plays the game. He’s a real competitor. To have a hooker who can whack harder than you is a massive confidence-boost.”
Liam Farrell descibed him as “one of a kind”.
“There are front-rowers who are pretty scared of him, they don’t want to run at him,” said the England forward. “He deserves everything he gets.”
Rugby director Kris Radlinski says McIlorum’s presence at Wigan often helps lure players to the club.
“When I have looked to recruit new signings for the club, they all state that they look forward to play alongside him,” said the ex-Great Britain No.1.
And forward Willie Isa admits the chance to play alongside McIlorum was “one of the main reasons I signed.”
In McIlorum’s testimonial brochure, two of the country’s biggest legends salute the impact he has made at the club.
Former GB captain Jamie Peacock says the 29-year-old “makes you earn your reputation”, recalling how McIlorum targeted him in their first encounter – when the hooker was at the start of his career.
“I regard him as a players’ player. People hate playing against him and they love playing alongside him, and that’s because players notice what he does,” said Peacock.
And Adrian Morley, who earned 50 caps for his country, said: “I know supporters regard him highly.
“Believe me, players rate him even higher. Because players know how hard he hits, and that’s why opponents are wary of him.”