In the back of the van, is a rugby league champion. It’s a glorious Illawarra day and the sun is beating down as he waits for others in the touring party, which will soon head to the spectacular Mount Keira Lookout, to arrive. He is the Wigan Warriors captain. A Great Britain and England international. The man is Wigan royalty. His father and uncle played over 250 games with the club back in the 1970s.
Sean O’Loughlin (pictured) is a leader of men and a warrior on the football field.
Normally, he’d be back home in the UK at the start of the Super League season with the temperature somewhere between 0 and 6 degrees. That’s his comfort zone. Here he is though in the back of a van with the temperature pushing the high 20s and it’s only mid morning.
“You know it’s meant to be 32 degrees on Saturday night,” I offer, trying to help. Without flinching, he shoots back: “Yeah, could you do anything about that?”. He’s only half joking.
Nope. Sorry mate.
Later, after a short drive, O’Loughlin and entourage arrive atop of Mount Keira for the Illawarra Mercury photo shoot with the specially-crafted shield created for the match in honour of Brett Kenny and Peter Stirling.
Hull FC captain Danny Houghton arrived seperately and comes straight to greet his counterpart. The first thing the two talk about is the weather.
“We trained there (at WIN Stadium) last night and the ground gets covered in shade,” O’Loughlin immediately reassured his Hull mate.
As they prepare for the shoot a lady on a picnic comes over inquisitively and plants herself between the two league greats, politely requesting a photo and admitting she was a “Dragons fan”. The guys pose, the sweat reflecting light of their brows on a glorious Wollongong summers day. Let’s hope the contest is equally as hot on Saturday night.