Written by Callum Walker
One-club man Sean O’Loughlin has played all of his career at hometown club Wigan Warriors. Considering his dad Keiron and uncle Kevin, played over 250 games for Wigan in the 1970s, he was always likely to follow in his family’s footsteps from an early age.
It was amateur club Wigan St Pats that gave O’Loughlin the base from which to grow as a Rugby League player. Picked up by the Warriors in the late ‘90s, the loose forward burst onto the Super League scene in 2002, debuting as a 19-year old.
Since then, O’Loughlin has become one of the greatest loose forwards to have played Rugby League in Britain. In 450 games that he has played so far, the number 13 has scored 88 tries and remarkably, kicked three goals and two drop-goals.
Over a period of 17 seasons, O’Loughlin has won four Super League titles – the most recent being 2018 – two Challenge Cups and one World Club Challenge. The curly-haired enforcer was made captain in 2006 and became the first skipper to lead Wigan to the Challenge Cup and Grand Final double in 2013, excelling in the role as a ball-playing loose forward.
In 2018, O’Loughlin registered his seventh appearance in the Super League Dream Team – a record for his club since the fantasy team was created in 1996. Despite missing most of the 2018 season with injury, his contribution on the field has been heralded as one of the most influential in the Super League era.
Wigan go up a gear whenever O’Loughlin is on the field and, being a skillful and handy loose forward, he offers the Warriors another outlet in attacking positions.
Defensively, the number 13 is tough and hard-hitting, leading Wigan’s defensive line and, even aged 35, he still brought the very best out of his fellow players as Wigan won their fourth Super League title in 2018. O’Loughlin raises the standards of those around him and ekes every last effort out of his teammates, purely for his love of Wigan and Rugby League.
As such an integral player for Wigan, the loose forward has been a regular in both the England and Great Britain setups over the years. He debuted for Great Britain in 2004 and went on to play 11 games, missing out on the 2019 tour of the southern hemisphere through injury, whilst, for England, the loose forward has earned 25 caps, scoring five tries and has even had the honour of captaining the national side.
At 37 years of age, retirement has often been spoken about. But, the 6 ft 2 playmaker has defied the odds and his injuries to come back stronger year on year. When Sean O’Loughlin does retire (which is earmarked for the end of the 2020 season), he will go down as perhaps Wigan’s greatest ever loose forward and one of Super League’s most influential.