St Helens’ Jonny Lomax has been weaned on the derby rivalry, having grown up a Saints-supporter in Billinge – but who played his junior rugby at Orrell St James.
And the England ace says having the Wigan connections makes the derby even more exciting for him.
“Having a Wigan post code and a St Helens council means that I’m really on the front line - I’ve been told I’m a Saints kid and I’ve been told I’m a Wigan kid,” he explained. “Paul Wellens summed it up best a few years ago when he said ‘you’re on the front line’. That’s the best way to put it for me, being a Saints fan in that grey area!”
Lomax first started playing for Orrell St James when he was five years old and played their until he was Under-16s.
“The place means an awful lot to me, times that you spent with your mates through the age groups and growing up together, you look back on as great times,” Lomax said.
“We meet up every Christmas Eve for a drink. About eight or nine of us who started at Under-7s and went straight through to Under-16s.
“I also try to get down there as often as I can and sometimes help out my mate who coaches the Under-7s.”
The 28-year-old grew up with a Saints background and had season tickets with the club as a child.
Although Wigan could have been an option when professional clubs began showing an interest, he said there was only ever going to be one choice.
“When we used to play town teams, I was able to go to both trials as I went to school in St Helens but lived in a Wigan postcode,” he said.
“A few lads from Orrell played for Saints and a few played for Wigan, so there was a lot of banter and again it adds to the occasion for me.”
Lomax won’t be the only ex-Orrell St James player to play in tonight’s fixture – Wigan’s Ollie Partington also came through the ranks at the Bankes Avenue-based club.
“I actually know Ollie very well, he’s a family friend of mine,” revealed Lomax.
“We used to go skiing – a big group of us – when Ollie was a big younger. I always try and grab him and have a chat at the end of games and see how he’s doing.
“It makes you really proud to see players from Orrell come through and make it in the Super League. There’s actually quite a few of us dotted around the country now.
“It’s great when you can see them and you have that affiliation to the amateur clubs. I know Ollie and Matty Costello get down to Orrell quite a bit.”
England star Lomax is currently playing in his testimonial year at St Helens and has support from across Billinge Hill.
“I held an event a few weeks ago in Orrell and Sean O’Loughlin and George Williams came down and helped out,” he added. “We did a bit of an England forum thing; it was good of them. I owe them a big thank you for that... I’ll have to get them a coffee soon.”