Super League: Liam Farrell walking in a Wigan Warriors wonderland

Prior to Liam Farrell’s testimonial match in January, Bevan French hailed his Wigan Warriors team-mate as having probably the best preparation of any rugby player he had seen during his career.

Given Farrell has been a first-team regular for head coaches Michael Maguire, Shaun Wane and now Adrian Lam since making a try-scoring debut as a 19-year-old against Wakefield Trinity in 2010, it should come as no surprise the back row has such rigorous personal standards.

A look at his honours list with Wigan tells its own story too; four Super League Grand Final triumphs and one Harry Sunderland Trophy, two Challenge Cup triumphs, plus earning a place in the Super League Dream Team on two occasions.

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He has recently passed the milestones of 250 appearances and 100 tries for the Warriors too, along with being honoured with a testimonial year. But for Farrell, that fastidious preparation is just part of what he must do to ensure he keeps living the dream of pulling on that famous Cherry and White jersey.

“I just don’t like to leave things to chance,” Farrell told Sky Sports. “I try to make sure I cover everything I need to and if that means doing things on my day off or in my own time I do it.

“There’s nothing special I do; it’s just making sure I work hard and make sure I deserve a spot in the team and do everything I can.

“Ever since being a little boy, all I wanted to do was play for Wigan. Watching them win Challenge Cups, playing in big games, all I wanted to do was make my debut for the club and then as I got a little bit older, things got a little bit more serious and I realised I might have a chance of playing for the club.

“I did so when I was 19 and I’ve never looked back since. I’m very grateful for the opportunities the club has given me and still to this day I pinch myself when I walk out playing for the club.”

The 30-year-old’s career has taken a well-trodden path for professional players in the town, starting out playing junior rugby at Wigan St Patricks and then being picked up by the Warriors’ academy team, working his way through the system to earn a full-time contract.

Farrell has spent his entire professional career with the Warriors as well. Aside, that is, from a six-game loan spell with Widnes Vikings in the Championship 10 years ago.

Despite initially not been keen on the move, he now looks back on that short time in the second tier as crucial to his development as a player, setting him up well for when he was handed his Super League bow not long after returning to Wigan.

I’m very grateful for the opportunities the club has given me and still to this day I pinch myself when I walk out playing for the club.

Liam Farrell

“I remember at the time the club mentioned to me about going and I really didn’t want to go,” Farrell said. “All I wanted to do was play for Wigan and going to Widnes didn’t sit well with me.

“But when I’ve looked back on it over the years, it was one of the best things I did. To any young lads wanting to make their trade in rugby, I’d definitely say do a spell in the Championship.

“It matures you a bit as a player, just to play against the older blokes and get a bit of game-time in. I came back a few weeks later and made my debut for the club, so it was very helpful for me.”

The work ethic instilled by Maguire and now national team boss Wane, who named Farrell in his first England performance squad earlier this year, has served the back row well during his career too.

He now finds himself playing under a man he used to watch playing for the Warriors nearly 20 years ago in Lam and while he admits that is strange, Farrell is in no doubt the former half-back’s connection with the club has made him the right choice for the job.

“I think people had their doubts about him coming into the club, but everything in his background, he knew what the club stood for, he’s been here and played for the club, so he knew what we were about and what was expected of individuals,” Farrell said.

“He’s instilled that in all of the young lads who are coming through as well, so in the next few years I think all of them will know what is expected of them.

“As a senior player now, and with the senior players around me, we expect to set standards and make sure the young lads are living up to it and then when they come through, they can do the same thing.”

Everything in his background, he knew what the club stood for, he’s been here and played for the club, so he knew what we were about and what was expected of individuals.

Liam Farrell on Adrian Lam

Farrell has been one of Wigan’s stand-out performers in Super League this year both prior to and post-lockdown, something which is recognised by him and team-mate French being among the four players ranked joint-third in the current Man of Steel standings.

The next challenge for him and the table-topping Warriors comes against Castleford Tigers on Saturday afternoon, having originally been due to face Catalans Dragons before positive coronavirus tests forced the French side to postpone that match.

And Farrell knows they cannot allow the high standards they set as both a team and individuals to start slipping if Wigan are to be contesting silverware in 2020.

“I’m very fortunate to play around some good players and I’ve got a good combination going with Jackson Hastings at the minute,” Farrell said.

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