Sean O’Loughlin is targeting going out on a high with Wigan Warriors after announcing his decision to retire at the end of the current Super League season.
The Warriors skipper has spent his entire 19-season career with his hometown club, having made his debut in 2002 after coming through the youth system and going on to captain both club and country, winning 22 England caps and 11 Great Britain caps.
O’Loughlin has been limited to a handful of Super League appearances so far this year due to injury, but is determined to be ready for next week’s play-off semi-final against Hull FC as he bids to end his time at the club as a Grand Final winner after making the tough decision to hang up his boots.
We’ve got two games left, so for me it’s been all about getting back and ready for that. When Adrian Lam puts a team out on the pitch, hopefully I can be a part of that.
“I’ve always known it would be a difficult decision because it’s something you love doing,” O’Loughlin said. “To not be able to do that going forward is pretty difficult to take.
“The reason you start playing as a kid is because you enjoy it and I don’t think I’ve ever lost that enjoyment. It’s got more difficult as you get older, but the enjoyment is still there.
“We’ve had tough years and years where we’ve done fantastically well, but I wouldn’t change any of it.
“We’ve got two games left, so for me it’s been all about getting back and ready for that. When Adrian Lam puts a team out on the pitch, hopefully I can be a part of that.”
The 37-year-old has so far been part of four Super League Grand Final wins, two Challenge Cup successes and three League Leaders Shield wins with Wigan, along with being involved when they beat NRL champions Cronulla Sharks in the 2017 World Club Challenge.
On a personal level, he has been named in the Super League Dream Team seven times as well and such is the impact O’Loughlin has made at the DW Stadium that he will be inducted straight into the Wigan Hall of Fame on retirement.
That will see him join Cherry and Whites greats Andy Farrell, Shaun Edwards, Dean Bell, Ellery Hanley, Andy Gregory, Eric Ashton, Billy Boston, Brian McTigue, Ken Gee, Joe Egan, Jim Sullivan, Frano Botica, Colin Clarke and Martin Offiah.
“It’s the first time since 2016 that we have inducted a player into the Wigan Hall of Fame,” Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan said. “It is absolutely fitting that Sean is that player.
Some of my favourite Wigan players ever are in the Wigan Hall of Fame and Sean deserves to be proud to be in such illustrious company.
Ian Lenagan on Sean O’Loughlin
“Some of my favourite Wigan players ever are in the Wigan Hall of Fame and Sean deserves to be proud to be in such illustrious company.”
Warriors head coach Adrian Lam was playing for the club when O’Loughlin made his debut off the interchange bench at home to Hull FC in April 2002, playing alongside him in the halves during the early stages of his career.
O’Loughlin has since become better known as a loose forward and Lam is not surprised he has gone on to have such a stellar career, being delighted to have had the opportunity to coach a player he hailed as instrumental in Wigan’s successes over the past decade.
“What he’s done for this club over a long period of time has shaped it into a very successful last 10 years,” Lam said.
“He’s potentially the best attacking forward in the world. He’s a great leader. He leads with actions more than words and he’s respected highly by his peers. He’s also a great guy.
“I’ve watched him grow from the young player I knew to the great player he is today; you don’t have too many of these very special one-club players.”
O’Connor: O’Loughlin is up there with Farrell
Sky Sports rugby league expert Terry O’Connor is in no doubt O’Loughlin will go down as one of Wigan’s greats of the Super League era.
Like Lam, former Warriors prop O’Connor was playing for the club when he made his debut, but had known him from before rugby due to O’Loughlin’s sister being married to former team-mate, good friend and Wigan great Farrell.
And O’Connor is in no doubt his all-round skills have led to O’Loughlin establishing himself as a Wigan icon.
“When you look at the stars Wigan have had over the years, the people who’ve won the Man of Steel, for me he’s up there with Andrew Farrell,” O’Connor said.
“I’d put Sean O’Loughlin into that sort of category. He’s a quiet bloke, but I think it’s his actions. Whether he plays loose forward, stand-off or prop, he can play every one of those just as well.
“He’s skilful, he’s tough when he needs to be and for me he’s a dying breed. You show me someone in this day and age who has the skills of a half-back but can play like a prop.
I don’t know one person in Super League who would have a bad thing to say about Sean O’Loughlin, only admire him as a player.
Terry O’Connor on Sean O’Loughlin
“I don’t know one person in Super League who would have a bad thing to say about Sean O’Loughlin, only admire him as a player.”
O’Connor also believes O’Loughlin, whose father Keiron and uncle Kevin both played professionally as well, has some stand-out personality traits which have made him an exceptional captain and will stand him in good stead if he decides to move into coaching.
“He’s one of those players who when he talks, people listen,” O’Connor said. “He’s not one of those who blab on as captain, when he talks it’s meaningful and he was like that as a kid.
“You knew he had something about him and there was an aura about him. He’s been around rugby with his cousins, his dad, his uncles, his brother – all of them played professional sport, so he’s been brought up in an environment where it’s sink or swim.
“He’s grasped this with two hands and he’s lived the dream.”
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