WIGAN’S illustrious list of overseas players reads like a who’s who of rugby league royalty, and in the early 2000s, Adrian Lam was king.
A tough and obscenely talented scrum-half, he became a huge fans’ favourite during four seasons in the Cherry and White – and has been frequently cited by his former team-mates as the greatest they have ever played with.
He spent last weekend back in Wigan, catching up with some old friends at the end of a 10-day reconnaissance trip ahead of the World Cup later this year, when he will coach his native Papua New Guinea.
“It’s been nearly 10 years since I was last here and, I got to tell you, it’s great to be back,” he told the Observer.
“It’s brought so many memories flooding back.
“The people of Wigan were great with me. I loved the people, loved my time here, love the club.”
Former Queensland captain Lam arrived in 2001 and quickly made his mark. He was inspirational in their Challenge Cup victory against St Helens in 2002, when he was voted Players’ Player of the Year by his Super League peers.
“I lost a Challenge Cup (in 2004) and played in two Grand Finals, but that Cup win in Murrayfield was my favourite memory of my time here,” he said. “It’s not so much the game as the trip down to Wigan on the open-top bus. I had some of my best times of my life playing here for the cherry and whites.
“I still miss it. I still miss playing. But then every time I play a legends game, I wake up the day after and think, ‘Yeah, it’s probably for the best!’”
Lam also spent a year coaching the Under-20s, and has been pleased to see so many of them go on to establish themselves in the Wigan side under the guidance of Shaun Wane.
“Shaun was the Under-18s coach then, but we trained them together and I’m made up he’s been so successful,” said Lam, who visited the Warriors training ground last Thursday. “They’re the front-runners and he’s not afraid to use the young players coming through.
“Players like Harrison Hansen, Darrell Goulding, Lee Mossop...” Reminded it was Lam who gave Mossop his nickname ‘Moose’, he laughed: “Yeah, I did. Do people still call him that?
“It’s great to see them do so well. Sean O’Loughlin was still only young then, but he always had that composure, he’s a great leader.
“And Sam Tomkins was in his first year of the 18s I think. To be honest, I couldn’t see what he ended up being. He triple-timed it to where he is now.”
Lam revealed he was offered a chance to become Wigan coach before Brian Noble’s appointment in 2006, and applied for the vacant coaching position at the end of 2009, losing out to Michael Maguire.
After coaching stints in the NRL with Cronulla and then St George-Illawarra, he is happy to dedicate him time to Papua New Guinea, while also assistant the juniors at his former club Sydney Roosters, where his eldest son Lachlan is on the books.
“He actually played his first game for Wigan St Patrick’s – that’s Andy Gregory’s old club, isn’t?” the 42-year-old said.
“In a month’s time he’s going for Australian Schoolboys.
“He qualifies for PNG, and remember, my mother is a Scouser so he could qualify for England too – hopefully he can have that choice.”
Lam will be back in the country later this year with his PNG squad. And having first come to English fans’ attentions in the 1995 competition, he said: “We’re trying to prepare the best we can. We know it’s going to be tough but I think we’ll go okay.”