Talking RL: 'Why is Sean O'Loughlin held to a higher standard than other veteran forwards?'

Sean O'Loughlin has suffered a pectoral injury
Sean O'Loughlin has suffered a pectoral injury

When Sean O'Loughlin suffered an injury last week, something struck me.

Reading and hearing fans' comments about him - as they speculated whether he should or would call it quits - I was left asking: Why is Sean O’Loughlin held to a higher ‘bar’ than other forwards in the twilight of their careers?

He’s 36.

It makes sense that injuries bite more, after so many knocks and bangs. And it makes sense that he won’t be quite as good as he was a few years ago.

You know why? Because NO player has been as good at 36 as they were in their late-20s!

But he’s still an outstanding player, still a hugely influential figure at the club.

Even last week, just before his unfortunate pectoral injury, his return from the bench not only lifted the side, but it improved it, too.

Now I'd argue the Wigan side now can cope better without him than in recent years, but he's still capable of producing performances which are a level above most; it was only a few months ago, Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson volunteered, "If Sean O’Loughlin is not one of the best players in the world... he’s an incredible player."

Yet for some reason, instead of comparing his value against the players around him and against him, some insist on comparing it to the incredibly high bar he had previously set.

Old forwards Ben Westwood, Gareth Ellis and Jamie Jones-Buchanan still contribute to their clubs, without the comparisons to the days when they were all starring for their country.

Ex-players Adrian Morley, Jamie Peacock, Steve Menzies and many more weren't as brilliant at the end as they were in the middle, but they were still terrific (and note: they proved players don't need to 'go out on top' to protect their legacies).

I don’t understand why some don't afford Lockers that leeway. Maybe it's because he's the England captain, and the others I've mentioned - past and present - had left the international arena before their final years.

But as Moz said, Lockers at 70 per cent is still better than most players in Super League.

I agree.

And it’s great news that he is likely to be back this season – just in time for the Grand Final, of course.

He remains out of contract. Will he play on next year? I hope so. Not only for the contributions he continues to make, but as a mentor for his long-term successor Morgan Smithies.

Clubs have been frantically tweaking their squads before the Super League transfer deadline closes (sorry, as a journalist, I’m contractually obliged to write, ‘slams shut’!) tomorrow.

Morgan Escare has moved to Wakefield. It was a smart move for everyone.

Wigan get a chance to see what he can do and whether he should be in their 2020 plans – he hasn’t played since May – while Escare gets some vital minutes, Wakefield get a very good player and Super League gets a crowd-pleasing star.

Winner, winner.

Unless, of course, he scores the winner for Wakefield against Wigan in a couple of weeks!

Interestingly, another of Trinity’s loan recruits, Chris Green, has been told he won’t be allowed to face his parent club, but Wigan haven’t issued any restrictions.