Magic Weekend: Why Sam Tomkins Deserves A Fond Farewell From Wigan Fans

The former Warrior faces his former club on UK soil one last time
08:00, 01 Jun 2023

Sam Tomkins has done pretty much everything in the sport of rugby league. A three-time Betfred Super League champion and two-time Challenge Cup winner, he has also been captain of England and caught attention for his performances in the NRL with New Zealand Warriors. Sure, he’s rubbed people up the wrong way at times, but his talent and drive has always been the stand-out part of his make-up.

On Saturday he comes up against his former club Wigan Warriors for what is scheduled to be the final time on UK soil when the Catalans Dragons meet the five-time Super League kings at Magic Weekend in Newcastle. He may still have half a season left to play before his injury-enforced retirement kicks in, but it’s hard not to see this as one of the milestone events on the last leg of Tomkins’ journey in rugby league.

Having broken through as a cocky, some would say arrogant, young star with Wigan and run into the ire of league supporters across the country for a two-fingered salute to Leeds Rhinos fans at the 2011 Challenge Cup final at Wembley, Tomkins had a long way to go to win over many neutrals. And yet thanks to his consistent excellence he largely did that.


His ability to chime in from full-back and provide exactly what was needed at any given moment made him a massive favourite among Warriors fans. If it took a brave, direct run at the weaker shoulder of a big forward, he would supply it. If a sneaky step and soft hands were what was necessary, he had that too. Even his kicking game was largely on point when it was called for.

So good was he in those early years at the DW Stadium – scoring 144 tries in 152 games – that the NRL was always going to want a piece of the Tomkins action, and while homesickness and injury cut short his spell with the New Zealand Warriors after two years, his first season in particular had been enough to prove to the Australasian audience that he was the real deal. His 13 tries in that maiden campaign were just the start of the impact he made at Mount Smart.


He returned to Wigan for a few seasons, but after a largely injury-hit spell he was snapped up by the Dragons ahead of the 2019 campaign. And it has been in the south of France that he has arguably earned his greatest plaudits despite the knee complaint which has slowly brought about an early end to his career.

Even when announcing that the 2023 season would be his last, he won over many with his eloquent delivery in fluent French. A figure once derided as being a ‘little Wiganer’ and whose intelligence had been questioned was now showing once and for all his rounded maturity and intellect. In Perpignan he has embraced the culture, absorbed every last bit of the experience and become an example for rugby league players the world over.

On the pitch he has harnessed his natural flair and game-reading ability with fantastic leadership, playing a major role in their League Leaders’ Shield success in 2021 which saw them come within 14 minutes of claiming a maiden Grand Final win against St Helens.

But even back then his knee injury was causing havoc, forcing him to miss the semi-final win over Hull Kingston Rovers and leaving him playing short of anything like full fitness in the big occasion at Old Trafford. As such, by the time he announced in March 2023 that his playing days were numbered, nobody can claim to have been surprised.

His final season has been littered with breaks to give his left knee a rest, and he may not even find himself in contention for Saturday’s clash with Wigan such is the instability in the joint.

But he deserves a fond farewell from his former public, the people of the town he called home for so long. And while the two sides are in Newcastle rather than the north-west, Tomkins will hopefully get the send-off he deserves on the latest stop of his goodbye tour.


*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject to Change

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