Tough task for Wigan to fill Lee Mossop's boots

Prop relishing chance to bow out as a Grand Final winner before his big move Down Under

Click to follow
The Independent Online

In a Super League Grand Final on Saturday that will signal an unusual number of farewells, most of the attention in Wigan has been on the departures of Sam Tomkins and Pat Richards.

There is another player bowing out, however, who the Warriors' coach, Shaun Wane, says will be missed just as badly. The England forward Lee Mossop has been around as long as either of those headline-grabbing backs and is, in a sense, an even more integral part of the Wigan family.

"He'll leave a massive gap," says Wane. "He lived with my in-laws for six years, so in a very real sense he's one of the family."

Mossop is from the west Cumbrian village of Hensingham but will join Sydney's Parramatta Eels after playing for England at the World Cup. "I still love it up there and I owe the club a lot, but my aspiration was to play in Super League, so I knew I'd have to move," he says.

Mossop's first opportunity came when he was spotted playing for his school in a match at Oldham by Wigan's Dean Bell and Brian Foley. Fortunately, there was a spare bedroom going free, so he came south.

As a young prop, his development was followed particularly closely by a senior member of the front-rowers' union. "I watched him like a hawk," says Wane.

Mossop admits that can create extra pressure. "Shaun has a very clear vision in his mind of what a prop should do and shouldn't do," he says. "It isn't coming from someone who hasn't done it, so you can't really argue. He's been good for me, there's no doubt about that."

This season, he has, at the ripe old age of 24, often looked like the senior prop, in terms of rugby league experience, in the Wigan side, especially when they have a couple of their Welsh converts in their 17.

"What Shaun is after is for you to play to your best, week after week," Mossop says. He has been doing that for quite some time now, becoming an England regular and attracting an offer from the NRL giants Canterbury Bulldogs. "I didn't feel ready," he says. "I felt I still had unfinished business at Wigan."

His feelings were very different when the once-mighty Parramatta, now languishing at the bottom of the NRL, made a bid earlier this year.

"The timing is just right for me now. I've won a Challenge Cup and got to a Grand Final – although I want to bow out winning, not just getting to it."

Mossop is not fazed by Parramatta's current lowly position. "They are putting together a squad of players who can turn the club around and I want to be a part of that. It reminds me of Wigan about six years ago, when it needed turning around," he says.

After Old Trafford and the World Cup, Mossop will be joining the "brawn drain" of British forwards to Australia headed by the likes of James Graham and Sam Burgess. He is not too worried, though, that he will not be joined by Gareth Hock, who originally signed for Parramatta with him, but changed his mind in favour of staying in England with Salford.

"We're not a double act, even though we signed at the same time," he says. "I'm going with my partner and what matters is what you do on the field, not anyone else."

Mossop knows he faces formidable obstacles to his plan to head to the western suburbs of Sydney as a double-winner. Lining up against him on Saturday, more than likely on the bench waiting to come on and make an impact, will be two Warrington props, Adrian Morley and Garreth Carvell, who are both moving on as well. "They were two of my idols when I was learning the game and they will be wanting to go out on a high too," he says.

Meanwhile, Leeds have signed the England winger Tom Briscoe on a five-year deal after he turned down an offer from Cronulla.