Ex-Wigan winger Tom Davies said it was the toughest decision of his life to leave his hometown club – but insists he’s made the right move.
Davies has joined former Warriors Michael McIlorum, Lewis Tierney, Sam and Joel Tomkins in the south of France.
The winger – on the comeback from a serious ankle injury – asked for a release from his contract to sign a two-year deal with Catalans Dragons.
He admits the competition for places at Wigan – as well as the style of play under Adrian Lam – swayed his decision.
“I never thought I’d leave, I love Wigan and always will,” he said. “But it was the right thing to do, for me and the club. It’s been a whirlwind but I’m glad I made the move.
“It was tough leaving Wigan – my memories of junior rugby at Shevington Sharks, Orrell and St Pats all came flooding back and all the great coaches I’d played under and signing for my hometown club was a dream come true.
“But there are so many good wingers at Wigan I couldn’t guarantee game-time and the way Wigan were playing didn’t suit my style.
“I have total respect for Adrian Lam and what he’s trying to do but it didn’t fit with the kind of player that I am.
“I’m better suited to more creative broken play, feeding off players like Sam Tomkins who is a genius at carving out space on the pitch.”
The 22-year-old was injured during the Good Friday derby against St Helens, sustaining a dislocated ankle and double leg fracture.
Shocking images of his left foot facing the wrong way as he was stretchered from the field were shown live on Sky Sports and many thought his career could be over – including Davies himself.
“I didn’t know much about it at the time because of the strong pain-killing drugs they gave me but when I woke up in Salford Royal Hospital the following morning it all came crashing down on me,” he said. “Would I be able to play again, and would I be as strong or as fast? My head was in bits.
“After a terrible night I got a phone call first thing in the morning and it was Shaun Wane – my former coach – asking how I was and telling me I’d be okay.
“It really helped to calm me down before the surgeons came to tell me the news. That’s typical Waney, as a player you always knew he had your back and genuinely cared about you. I really appreciated that.
“Anyway, it was good news from the consultants, they’d had a good look and despite a clean break of the fibula and three fractures of the tibia, plus the dislocation, they said I should be able to make a full recovery after operation.
“I had to keep the plaster on for a week to control the swelling before they operated and it was a tough week, my foot swelled so much I thought it would break the cast and my toes turned purple! But the surgeons did a great job, repairing the bones, inserting a long metal plate and putting it all back together again.
“They were brilliant – in fact all of the care I received from Wigan and the hospital staff was incredible.”
Seven months later Davies finds himself living by the Mediterranean at beach resort Canet Plage with the only signs of his injury ordeal a 12-inch scar on his left ankle and he’s already in pre-season training with the Dragons.
“When the opportunity came up to join Catalans, I met with (coach) Steve McNamara and (head of performance) Richard Hunwicks and immediately bought into what they are trying to do here,” said Davies.
“It’s still a very young club – just 13 years old – but it has got massive potential. The coaches are trying to create something special here and bring in a professional environment from top to bottom.
“I really believe this club has the potential to go all the way and win Super League.
“My grandad, great-grandad and uncle all played professional rugby league and I want to make my mark too.
“I’ve now got a chance to be a part of a squad which has the potential to make history.
“All I’m focused on now is repaying the faith this club has shown in me. I already know the former Wigan lads here and I’ve played with Matt Whitley at England Knights so I’ve settled in straight away. Training is very similar to Wigan, it just feels a little different running up and down the steps at the Brutus and looking at the mountains of the Pyrenees – it makes a change to seeing Haigh Hall Plantation Gates all the time.
“And of course it’s nice to see some sunshine at this time of the year. My girlfriend and I now want to learn French as quickly as possible and soak up the culture and lifestyle over here.
“It’s a bit of a challenge at the moment, we can’t nip to Asda or Galloways and we don’t always get what we want when we go shopping but it’s a beautiful place to live and we can’t wait to explore.
“But most of all, I want to play. At one point I thought it might never happen again.
“Ask any player – it’s not so much about the money and the contracts – it’s about playing the game you love.
“When you’re injured and there’s a possibility you might never play again it’s a horrific place to be.”