Written by Callum Walker
Born in Hull, Jon Wilkin debuted for Hull KR in 2002 aged 18, scoring seven tries and kicking one drop-goal in 25 appearances. At the end of that season, St Helens snapped up the versatile playmaker when he was just 19.
Over the course of 17 seasons, Wilkin – who can play at halfback or in the backrow – played 404 games for St Helens, scoring 92 tries and kicking two drop-goals and was an instrumental figure in Saints’ trophy-laden success throughout the Super League era.
Wilkin’s first piece of silverware in a St Helens shirt came in 2004 as the Lancashire club beat rivals Wigan in the Challenge Cup. He and Saints added another Challenge Cup success in 2006 with the Hull-born player suffering a broken nose and scoring a try as Saints dispatched Huddersfield with ease, 42-12.
Saints and Wilkin were not finished there though in 2006 as they completed the domestic treble with a first-place finish and a Grand Final victory over Hull FC. This Grand Final success set up a World Club Challenge tie with NRL champions Brisbane Broncos, whom St Helens dispatched 18-14 with Wilkin playing at loose-forward.
Two more Challenge Cup successes were forthcoming in 2007 and 2008 too, as Saints put Catalans Dragons to the sword, 30-8 in 2007 and Hull FC in 2008, 28-16 with the playmaker yet again at the forefront of the club’s success.
However, heartbreak followed year after year in the Super League title showdown as St Helens lost five Grand Finals in a row between 2007 and 2012. And, in an even more cruel twist of fate for Wilkin, it was to be heartbreak for him once more in 2014.
Despite St Helens reaching and winning the Grand Final, 14-6 against Wigan, he missed a large chunk of the 2014 season with a dislocated shoulder which ruled him out of the Old Trafford event.
In fact, Wilkin has not appeared at Old Trafford since 2007 and left Saints at the end of 2018 having helped steer the club to a first-place finish, but having missed out on the Challenge Cup Final and Grand Final as St Helens exited both competitions in the semis. A true leader, Wilkin had worn the captain’s armband since January 2015 for St Helens, having taken over from the retired Paul Wellens.
Wilkin left for pastures new in October 2018, joining the Toronto Wolfpack in their quest for Super League at the age of 34. With promotion in mind, the Canadian side reached the top tier in 2019, with the veteran playing a major part in their rise. The forward was then persuaded to come out of retirement in January this year to bolster a small Super League squad.
A real workhorse, Wilkin was rewarded for his consistency with St Helens with representative honours. He earned ten England caps – debuting in 2004 – and scored one try as well as registering six appearances for Great Britain. The former Saint has, however, made the Super League Dream Team just once – in 2006.