Sean O’Loughlin on receiving OBE honour and enjoying Wigan Warriors coaching role

Sean O’Loughlin says the magnitude of being awarded an OBE only sunk in after the announcement was made.

The former England captain and Wigan Warriors legend was recognised for his services to Rugby League in the Queen’s Jubilee Birthday Honours list, which was published on Thursday.

It was a fitting reward for a career that brought more than 500 appearances for club and country, including four Super League titles, two Challenge Cups and a World Club Challenge in his career-long service to Wigan, where he is now an assistant coach.

O’Loughlin also earned 36 international caps for Great Britain and England, playing in two World Cups for the latter and leading them to the final in 2017 as skipper.

The 39-year-old could only let his closest family know the news of his honour before it was made public.

“At the time it was very out the blue,” O’Loughlin told League Express. “About six or eight weeks ago I got the letter.

“It took a couple of times reading it before it sunk in what it actually was.

“Once I had the letter I parked it, put it away, and to be honest, I didn’t give it much thought after that.

“I think it was (last) Monday or Tuesday that Alastair (Hancock, Wigan’s media officer) congratulated me and I didn’t know what he was talking about at first!

“I hadn’t forgotten, but I hadn’t made a mental note of the date.”

O’Loughlin won ten titles in his career but admits it’s hard to compare any of those achievements with this honour.

He said: “From a sportsperson’s point of view, you’re always competing to get something. You compete to win Challenge Cups, Grand Finals and league titles.

“This feels more like a career milestone. You’re not really aware of it, it’s not something you’re thinking you’re going to get and you’re looking towards, it’s just a by-product of your career.

“Since it’s come out it has definitely shocked me how many people have congratulated me and how big a deal it actually is.

“I obviously knew they were hard to come by, but only when it’s been announced have I realised how much of an accolade it is.”

Having retired from playing at the end of 2020, O’Loughlin is now in his second season as an assistant coach at Wigan and enjoying the role, especially with extra responsibility this year for the defence in particular.

He said: “Last year I was doing bits and bobs, whatever they wanted me to do. I was learning the trade.

“This year I’ve stepped up, (working) alongside Briersy (Lee Briers). This year there’s been more responsibility for me.

“I always tried to get involved with the Academy whenever I could. When Matty (Peet) was head of youth I tried to get down and be involved. The last five or six years of my playing career I was involved more heavily.

“It was a great way for me to learn. You don’t always know how it’s going to go when you finish, but I knew coaching was what I wanted to go into.

“I think I’ve made the transition from playing reasonably well. I’ve not missed playing too much.”

And he says he took the same kind of satisfaction from Wigan’s recent Challenge Cup triumph as from any of the silverware secured in his playing career.

“It definitely felt as special; it’s a real highlight of my career,” said O’Loughlin.

“I know as a player how hard they are to come by, and that’s the same as a coach. To get one so early in my coaching career, I was made up personally, and I was over the moon for the players because they work very hard.”

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