Iain Thornley says that it has been “a dream come true” being back at Wigan Warriors for what he believes could be his final contract before retirement.
The 30-year-old signed a two-year deal, with the option for a third season, to return to the club for the third time in his career.
Thornley came through the ranks at Wigan and then, after a spell in rugby union, returned to the DW Stadium and helped the club to a Super League and Challenge Cup double in 2013.
He departed again after the 2015 season and went on to spend time with Hull Kingston Rovers, Catalans Dragons and Leigh Centurions, leaving the latter following their relegation from Super League last season.
Thornley admits that it was “probably a bit of a surprise” to receive the interest from Wigan mid-way through last year when his contract at Leigh was running down but he has had no regrets so far.
“It’s been brilliant for a Wigan lad,” Thornley told League Express.
“I joined Wigan when I was eleven in the scholarship so it’s a special one for me, and with all my friends and family being from Wigan it has special significance for me.
“To come back here at this stage of my career is a bit of a dream come true, just because of the fact that it’s come full circle.
“I don’t know how long I could play for but it could be my last contract and I could be finishing here. It would be a nice end to the story.”
He might be wearing familiar colours again this season but plenty has changed at the Warriors in the past six years, including the move to the Robin Park facility, and Thornley says “it’s like a new club”.
The faces he does know are now in different roles, including Matt Peet as the new head coach, who was once Thornley’s Under-20s coach, while former team-mate Sean O’Loughlin is now an assistant coach alongside an old adversary in Lee Briers.
The same goes for the players. Having been a contemporary of Liam Farrell, Sam Powell and John Bateman, Thornley returns to find that they are all now amongst the most experienced figures in the group.
“They’re all well-established, senior players with ten years’ experience behind them,” said Thornley.
“They have a lot of say and sway in what goes on and what happens in training. It’s nice to see, and it’s what you expect to see when players are with a club for so long.
“They have done well over the years and they’re still winning comps, so you’d expect that.
“But it’s nice to be back playing alongside them. I had a great few years last time so if we can replicate anything like that, it’ll be great.”
The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.