Written by Callum Walker
Of Polish descent, Kris Radlinski signed for his hometown club Wigan in 1993, aged 17, having played for Wigan St Judes and St Patricks at amateur level. The fullback or centre went on to play his entire professional career for the Lancashire club.
From an early age it was clear that Radlinski was something special. In 1995, at age 19, he became the first player to score a hat-trick in a Premiership Final and also the youngest ever winner of the Harry Sunderland trophy for his stellar man-of-the-match performance in Wigan’s 69-12 victory over Leeds.
He added a Regal Trophy winners’ medal to his cabinet in 1996, but, his next finals success in Wigan colours wasn’t long in the making as just two years later Radlinski was part of the Wigan side that triumphed 10-4 over Leeds in the inaugural Super League Grand Final.
‘Radz’- as he was affectionately known – and Wigan didn’t have long to wait to enjoy success once more, with Wigan beating St Helens in the showpiece Challenge Cup event in 2002, 21-12. The fullback himself won the Lance Todd trophy for a superb display. That would, however, be his last piece of silverware for the Warriors as, despite Wigan appearing in the 2000, 2001 and 2003 Grand Finals as well as the 2004 Challenge Cup Final, they lost all four.
Over the course of 14 seasons – 11 of which were played in Super League – Radlinski registered 322 appearances, scoring 183 tries and kicking one goal. The fair-haired fullback announced his retirement from the sport prematurely in March 2006 due to persistent injuries at the relatively young age of 29.
Playing mostly at fullback, Radlinski earned numerous caps for both England and Great Britain and was included in five Super League Dream Teams. He debuted for England at just 19, earning 10 caps overall and scoring three tries. For the Lions, the Wigan man made 20 appearances, scoring four tries with his last appearance coming in 2004.
In true warrior fashion, in June 2006 Radlinski came out of retirement and returned to Wigan for the remainder of the 2006 season, playing for free to aid the team during their personnel struggles that year. He once again retired three games before the end of the season, helping Wigan avoid relegation by a mere three points.
In December 2009, Radlinski took up a new role at the club where his heart lay: he was appointed Rugby General Manager at Wigan, working alongside new head coach Michael Maguire. The former hero on the field was then appointed onto the Board of Directors in October 2014.
An athletic, 6 ft versatile back, Radlinski made his name primarily at fullback. With the ability to chime into the attacking line to perfection and a defensive game that was impressive to say the least, he could do everything. It’s a huge shame that his career was cut short by injury as, almost certainly, the Wiganer would have added to his 322 appearances for Wigan.