Sam Tomkins' exit leaves a hole not just at Wigan but in Super League itself

The semi-final against Leeds will be the last home game for one of Britain's best

It won't quite be the end of an era at Wigan, but it will be a punctuation mark in the club's history as a breeding ground of great players.

Sam Tomkins confirmed the worst kept secret in rugby league this week when he announced that he will be playing next year for the New Zealand Warriors, who are paying Wigan a world-record transfer fee of around £700,000.

Regardless of the result of their Super League play-off against Leeds this evening, it will be his last game at the DW Stadium.

The club and their supporters have had plenty of time to get used to the idea, so the initial disappointment has long since worn off.

The Wigan chairman, Ian Lenagan, has tried his hardest to put a positive spin on the move, arguing that it should be regarded as a compliment to the British game and stressing that, if he comes back to Super League, it will be to Wigan.

Shaun Wane, the coach who has done more than anyone to make Tomkins the player he is, says: "We are lucky to have had him for eight years."

For the game as a whole, it is regarded as the lesser of two evils, the greater being to have taken the shilling from rugby union. Either route would have earned him more than he could get from league, while the experience of plying his trade on the other side of the world, in its toughest rugby competition, the NRL, is also a strong attraction. As he says, the timing is right for him to test himself in that setting. At 24, he has the capacity to improve and become, like Sam Burgess at South Sydney, accepted as one of the best players in the world. He has not chosen the easy option. For all their access to a massive talent pool, the NZ Warriors have under-achieved over the last few seasons. He is in line to displace a local favourite in Kevin Locke and, if he does not consistently perform like Superman, he can expect more than his share of criticism. Two Wigan players of an earlier era, Denis Betts and Andy Platt, found that out the hard way.

There is no doubt that Wigan are going to miss him. The difference between their record with him in their side and without him is proof of that. For charisma and entertainment value, there is nobody in Super League, let alone in the Wigan side, to touch him.

Yet life will go on, as it has done in the past, with the loss of players like Andy Farrell and Jason Robinson.

It is a splendid irony that one of the candidates to be Tomkins' long-term successor as Wigan full-back is Robinson's son, Lewis Tierney.

Both he and another young player, Ryan Hampshire, have shown that sort of potential in their first-team appearances this season, but, in the shorter term, Wigan want a bit of experience in the role. Having failed to sign Anthony Minichiello, the Sydney Roosters and Italy World Cup captain, they have homed in on the North Queensland Cowboys' Matt Bowen.

Tomkins will be replaced by Matt Bowen Tomkins will be replaced by Matt Bowen  

There is no doubting his talent or his crowd-pleasing capabilities – he can be a thrilling player to watch – but he is the wrong side of 30, injuries are starting to mount and he would surely be only a one-season proposition. If he stays fit, though, he could be the ideal mentor to bring through Tierney and Hampshire.

More immediately, it would suit Tomkins' sense of occasion to sign off with a couple of performances which underline just what a special Wigan player he has been, ideally one against Leeds and one next weekend in the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford.

Leeds will have something to say about that, however. No side is better than them at play-off rugby and it is appropriate that one of their most potent weapons is the next-best English full-back after Tomkins, Zak Hardaker.

Hardaker does not quite have the electrifying footwork of Tomkins, but it is when he comes into the line and links with his three-quarters that the Rhinos are at their most dangerous.

Much will depend, though, on the fitness or otherwise of two of their workhorses, Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Brett Delaney. They both finished injured in the thrilling win over St Helens last week.

Mind you, so did Danny McGuire and he still managed to put over the drop goal that won the match. It was another illustration of Leeds' instinctive knowledge of what needs to be done at this time of year.

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice