Sam Tomkins has opened his heart about his decision to leave Wigan at the end of the season.
He turned down an offer to extend his stay with his hometown club to join Catalans, whose interest was revealed in the Wigan Observer six weeks ago.
In the first part of our exclusive interview, he details the reason why he is going...
Why are you joining Catalans?
It’s a new challenge for me. It’s a club with huge ambitions. They’re doing it tough at the moment, but that’s not to say it’s a club that can’t be turned around. They’ve got some real talent in the squad and hopefully that can be added to as well, and the club can push on to the next level. They’ve got a huge fanbase who have not seen any silverware – to go and be a part of that was a massive opportunity for me.
Rugby players all want challenges, whether it’s in games or training, and this is a big challenge. It’s something completely new.
Wigan’s statement suggests the chance for you and your family to experience a new lifestyle appealed to you...
First and foremost, I’m going there to hopefully be part of a successful rugby team.
Obviously there’s a lifestyle which comes with that, living in the south of France –that is a factor. There’s a lifestyle change which will be different for me and my family.
I don’t dislike the lifestyle I’ve got now in Wigan, but to experience something new with my family is a positive on top of that.
It’s a beautiful part of the world and speaking to (former team-mates) Micky McIlorum and Lewis Tierney, they love living there. They’re doing it tough on the field and if they were winning most weeks, as well as having that lifestyle, they’d be happier.
What if Catalans are relegated at the end of this season?
I’ll be going regardless. I had to speak to them about it – my contract is there whether they’re in Super League or the Championship, that’s all sorted.
But when I look at the calibre of players, they’re more than capable of playing in Super League, I’m confident of that.
They’re getting better, they had a tough start to this year but rugby league is very much about momentum – look at the way us and Warrington are playing, winning becomes a habit just like losing does – and I’m hopeful and confident they’ll be okay.
Have you had any assurances they will be in Super League in 2020 under a league restructure, should they be relegated?
No, I’ve not.
When did you first consider a move to France?
At the start of the year, my agent was told the option year wouldn’t be taken up (by Wigan, who had an option in their favour for 2019). There were other options in Super League but Catalans really stood out. Then it was down to choosing between staying at Wigan (who offered a new four-year deal) or going there, and I decided to go.
Wigan say the decision wasn’t because of a disagreement over their contract offer – is that how you see it?
I’m not leaving for a load more money. That’s not the case. Very often, with contracts, you’re dictated where you’re going by the salaries on offer because it’s a short window and we all want to earn good money. But on this occasion money wasn’t an issue – it was about what I wanted to do.
You’ve worked with Catalans coach Steve McNamara before – was than a factor?
Yes it was. I worked with him for a few years, he’s got a job on his hand there, and not just with improving the first team. If you look at what he did at England, people could be sceptical of how he was because we didn’t win a World Cup, but what he did was set up the Knights, programmes for the Under-16s and 18s, the elite training squad – all things which build towards a successful future. I know what he’s about, he’s a great bloke and it will be good to work with him again.
How’s your French?
Terrible. My worse grade in my GCSEs was in French – I got a D – which is probably not a good omen.
How difficult was it to make that call?
It was a very hard decision. Wigan is a club I love, and I always will do. It’s been a part of my life, and my family’s lives, since I was 12. Logan, Joel and I were all on the scholarship. It took a lot of thought, and speaking to family and friends, but once I decided I told Ian Lenagan and Kris Radlinski, and the boss.
Tomkins Q&A part 2: Telling Wane, his legacy, his ambitions