The number 13 shirt at clubs like Leeds Rhinos, Wigan Warriors and St Helens has a special history to it but perhaps you would have to say Wigan’s especially.
The Cherry and Whites have had some amazing loose-forwards in the past. Ellery Hanley held the jersey as Wigan began their domination of British rugby league in the late 80s before he joined Leeds.
But shortly after, it was the time of Andy Farrell. In 1996, he became the youngest Man of Steel and would later reclaim the award in 2004 with him playing on after a broken nose becoming an iconic image of Super League.
A Super League Champion in 1998, Farrell is still brought up in conversations about Super League’s greatest ever player. As he left for rugby union, Sean O’Loughlin would take on the shirt number and would become a legend in his own right.
O’Loughlin would become Super League’s second most successful skipper after Kevin Sinfield lifting the Super League trophy in 2010, 2013, 2016 and 2018. He was a key player in all of these title wins. He is also one of six captains to lift the Challenge Cup and Super League trophy in the same season as Wigan won the double in 2013.
He retired in 2020 with John Bateman returning to the club and taking on the number 13 shirt and helping the Warriors win the Challenge Cup in 2022 before leaving for Wests Tigers.
Morgan Smithies took on the shirt that seemed destined to be his in 2023 and was a vital cog in the machine as Wigan finished top and won the Grand Final. He produced a near Man of the Match display against Catalans Dragons in the Grand Final.
Smithies though has completed a move to Canberra Raiders for 2024 after signing for an Australian agency. This has raised the question – who will wear the number 13 shirt in 2024?
The logical answer would be Luke Thompson after his huge move from the Canterbury Bulldogs to Wigan. Though associated with prop due to his time at St Helens, Thompson has played 13 for the Bulldogs in the past.
Kaide Ellis has also been a suggestion from some but another has been son of Andy Farrell, Owen Farrell. A rugby union legend for England, Farrell came up short of World Cup glory at the semi-final stage despite a superb performance against South Africa from the Fly-half.
The Wigan born star has often been linked to Wigan and fans believed after the World Cup he would join Wigan and Smithies departure sent the rumours and the hopes of Wigan fans into absolute overdrive.
However, it would immediately seem that those hopes had been emphatically ended with a images immediately emerging of Farrell back at Saracens after the World Cup.
One fan said, “That’s not a Wigan kit,” whilst another said, “I thought he was signing for Wigan.”
Since then, Farrell has made his return to the pitch with Saracens featuring against Leicester Tigers on Saturday. This would be a very odd move if he was set to make the switch.
Furthermore, it is understood that there was never any formal interest from Wigan in the England flyhalf meaning the dreams of Wigan fans were just dreams. A case of putting two and two together and getting five.
The question will likely persist however until Farrell formerly retires from rugby. It would be a major moment for British rugby league if Wigan or indeed any club could acquire his services but that will likely never happen.
Now would have been the moment for Farrell, after a World Cup and replacing Morgan Smithies. But his committed to the 15 man code remains the same. He has shown he is still committed to Saracens and reports have also emerged revealing that he is still in plans for the next World Cup in 2027 down under.
After that, there may be a small window of opportunity to make the switch but by then the moment could have well and truly passed us all by.