JOE GREENWOOD is living the stuff of childhood dreams after his Wigan experience turned out to be as good as he was told.
And he is using a Saddleworth gym to make sure he can stay a step ahead of the rest, even on his days off.
The Austerlands ace is enjoying a fine Super League season after playing his way into the England squad in 2018, despite losing the World Club challenge to NRL champions Sydney Roosters.
Greenwood was one of the stars kicking themselves after a shocking first 10 minutes cost them as they lost 20-8.
Apart from that, the Warriors matched the NRL champions and Greenwood revealed the billing the club was given by Wigan legend and childhood coach Nicky Kiss was exactly right.
“Nicky coached me when I was a kid at Saddleworth Rangers and talked about the ‘Wigan Way’, which at the time sounded like the stuff of legend,” said Greenwood.
“When I was a kid, I was just like, ‘Wow, really?’ but now I’m here it all rings true, even though Adrian Lam has tweaked a couple of things since coming in as coach – it’s all a bit surreal really.
“However, I feel we gave Sydney a bit too much respect in the World Club Challenge, especially in the first 15 or 20 minutes but if we’d started like we went on for the following 60, I reckon we would’ve beaten them.”
One moment in which Greenwood proved Super League can compete with the NRL was when he smashed Roosters’ prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves – which lit up a packed DW Stadium.
And he revealed he just had to return the favours the Kiwi was dishing out at the time.
The 25-year-old added: “I’ve seen the video a few times on social media and had a bit of a laugh about it.
“I came out like a cannon and thought, ‘If he steps, I’ll probably still be running!’
“It was a massive body-to-body collision but I enjoyed it. We needed a spark and he was giving it out, so I thought I’d give it him back!”
Greenwood hopes to make the re-born Great Britain side’s tour to New Zealand and Papua New Guinea in October and November, ideally on the back of another Super League crown.
His shirt from last year’s Grand Final, when Wigan beat Warrington, is already up at Rangers’ clubhouse on Shaw Hall Bank Road.
And if he does make the trip, he can think the regular sessions he goes through at Kiss Fitness in Diggle – who also count Oldham Athletic manager Paul Scholes and former Manchester United star Nicky Butt among its clients – that help keep him at the top of his game.
Greenwood said: “I thought I’d go up there before pre-season started and did a couple of sessions with them – and it’s still a bit weird to see Nicky around as he’s a legend in Wigan.
“After finishing with England, I went away for 10 days and I was meant to be back at Wigan on December 17 but I went back a week early.
“It’s a great facility that has all the top of the range equipment and I still go up there, even though its now during the season.
“I do mobility and flexibility sessions on my days off, just to keep me moving really and I can really feel the benefits from doing them.
“I think coming in a little bit earlier did me good. I know you need time off but I was ready to go back in. I was itching to go back!”
• The World Club Challenge between Wigan Warriors and Sydney Roosters was refereed by Saddleworth’s Robert Hicks.
It was a great start to 2019 for Hicks, who was raised at The Three Crowns, Austerlands, and who last year reached the pinnacle of the sport by officiating at three of rugby league’s showpiece games.
Hicks, 37, took charge of the Challenge Cup final, Grand Final and first test between England and New Zealand at Hull’s KC Stadium.
Hicks, the son of former Oldham RL and Keighley player Ray, began refereeing aged 16 after realising he would not make it as a player.
His father not long ago retired after being landlord of The Three Crowns for 40 years and was Saddleworth’s longest-serving licensee.