JACK Welsby needs no reminding how much Wigan fans hate St Helens and scream at the players they loathe – he was once one doing just that.
Now he finds himself on the other side of the match that gave the very term derby as a Saints star.
The full back may have ruined the Warriors’ Grand Final hopes with that dramatic last gasp try in 2020 and gone on to win the double and establish himself as arguably Super League’s biggest talent.
But he is Wigan born and bred – backing one sporting team from his hometown, Wigan Athletic, to the point he checks how they have got on as soon as any clashing match has finished.
And in the not too distant past, he was one of the screaming kids in the stand behind the posts at the DW Stadium getting it from Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook after he scored a try.
Welsby, who will line up alongside the back rower who returned serve, recalled: “I was in the South Stand at the DW Stadium, that’s where I always used to sit.
“Louie scored a try right in front of all the Wigan fans, it was right under my nose.
“I always say to him that everyone was saying, ‘Get into him, get into him,’ and was just going in his Cockney accent, ‘Yes!’
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“I remember that quite clearly. I still remember him swearing and screaming in his Cockney accent. He’s not changed one bit since then, he’s still annoying!
“I went to most of the Good Friday derbies in Wigan when I was growing up with my mum and dad.
“I’ll always remember one when Wigan kicked off and in the first set Dom Manfredi charged a kick down and went under the posts.
“It was still all smoky from the pre-match fireworks!
“Growing up I was firmly shouting for Wigan but now I’m on the Saints side and Good Friday’s all about winning at all costs.
“Ask any Saints fan what’s the most important game of the season and they’ll, say, ‘Good Friday.’
“Playing Wigan is something I look forward to. Knowing all my mates and people back home will be shouting for Wigan is one of them things but it’s the best game in rugby league.”
Welsby’s big moment in 2020 came playing as a centre, he has also played on the wing and in the haves – now he is Saints’ first choice full back.
But despite all his talent, which has put him in the England reckoning ahead of the World Cup, he admits he still has plenty to learn.
And when Jonny Lomax chirps up, he listens as the 21-year-old added: “I’m enjoying it at full back, it’s probably my most comfortable position but I’m lucky, I’ve got Paul Wellens here and Jonny to give me tips.
“Wello’s obviously been there and done it and had so many games at full back but Jonny’s just as clever. He knows every position in rugby.
“He’s an absolute nerd of the game, he’ll admit that himself and any time he gives me anything, we have a conversation about it and resolve it in the best way possible.
“I love it when he chips in with something. He’s an older head than me and has played the game for a long time.
“He knows what he’s talking about and it’s not too dissimilar position to stand off – he’s probably the best in Super League at the moment, anything I can grab off him I will do.”
Welsby, who hails from the Shevington area of Wigan, will not face Zak Hardaker after Warriors boss Matt Peet dropped him for ‘failing to meet some of our standards.’
But he does believe having Saints’ nearest and not so dearest looking more like they can challenge makes today’s event even better.
He told SunSport: “From what I’ve seen of them, Wigan have been really good this year. We know they’re going to come with some fire in their belly and will be hungry. We’ll have to meet it head on.”
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