Its time for me to confront this issue.
Sam Tomkins is not the most well liked player in the British game. For all of the accolades people throw in his direction, he still is not well liked at all by British Rugby League fans.
Just recently the BBC’s George Riley wrote a piece titled Why boo our best and brightest?. I found it interesting the angle in which he approached the issue. When you get past the arse licking tone of some of the writing, you generally get the impression that George thinks Sam is just a bit silly and we should all cut him some slack.
So let me tell you why people don’t like Sam Tomkins and why his gesture during the Challenge Cup went down like a lead balloon.
Wembley Stadium is hallowed turf for Rugby League in Great Britain. It doesn’t matter who is playing at Wembley in a Rugby League match, as Rugby League fans, we all know it is a special place and a special occasion.
For anyone under the age of 40, the Wigan Rugby League club is a big part of all of our memories of Wembley and the Challenge Cup Final. For many years, Wigan were so good that everyone expected them to not only be in the final, but to win it, no matter who they played.
In 2011, Wigan were back after a long absence. A great club on the games greatest stage. You didn’t have to be a Wigan fan to appreciate what this meant for the game as a whole.
Sam Tomkins had spend the previous couple of weeks talking about what this meant to him as well. He grew up wanting to play for Wigan. He wanted to play in the Challenge Cup Final for Wigan at Wembley stadium. He wanted to hold aloft the oldest trophy the game has to offer. This was his dream.
The fans turned up in big numbers, as they always do for the Challenge Cup Final. To their credit, the Leeds Rhinos went to the kit bag and reached back in time for one last great effort in a game that means so much to them.
As fans, we sat back, and we took it all in….
When Wigan crossed for their first try at Wembley Stadium for so many years, we all knew the gravity of the occasion. It was a good try too.
Then we saw this:
Here we are on what is arguably British Rugby League’s biggest occasion of the year. Wigan have just taken the lead from Leeds. Sam Tomkins is living his dream, paid a lot of money to play for the club he always wanted to play for, playing in the Challenge Cup Final, at Wembley, and this was his reaction….to snidely and pathetically target Leeds Rugby League supporters who had traveled to London to support their own team.
Rugby League is the most honest game in the world. No game you will find is more accountable to its fans. We are not passive viewers, this sport is ours. It belongs to us. It has been that way since that fateful day in 1895 when our game can say it was born out of the people wanting ownership of their game.
Because of this, as fans, we are honest about the game and we do not hold back when we see something we don’t like.
Sam Tomkins reaction smacked of a stupid, petulant little child who hides behind his mates as he tries to sooth his own ego be sticking his fingers up at the rest of the world.
In doing so he soiled sacred ground. OUR Wembley Stadium. A place where our sport has had some many of his historic moments. On top of that, he soiled Wigans triumphant return to Wembley. What do we all remember of this game? In five years time will we be talking about Joel Tomkins length of the field try or how his dumb kid brother acted like a twat?
Riley seems to this it is “the best” that get boo’d. Tell that to Sam Burgess, Gareth Ellis, or the best English player in Rugby League today, Gareth Widdop.
These three are the biggest stars in British Rugby League. They prove themselves against the worlds best players, week in, week out, on foreign soil in a competition that offers no free rides. They have come to Australia and been given NOTHING, they have had to earn it.
While 22 year old Sam Tomkins was using the best moment of his career to be a dipshit, on the other side of the world 22 year old Gareth Widdop was playing at halfback, for the best club in the world, in the best competition in the world. While Tomkins is busy enjoying the fact he is the biggest name in little old Wigan, Widdop just wants to improve his game. He just wants to keep his place in first grade. He just wants to be the best player he can possibly be.
Two different attitudes. Tell me which one you want at your club, and which one you don’t want a bar of.
It is not about how supposedly good a player is, it is about the way they carry themselves. It is about the way they represent the game we all love.
Martin Offiah was a player you either loved or hated. In my opinion he is easily the most famous British Rugby League player of all time. Love him or hate him, Chariots was someone who always representative the game to the best of his ability.
You can not say the same thing about Sam Tomkins.
Looking past the fact his impact was negligible, his gesture has drawn a line in the sand and sadly for him, he will never be able to redeem himself in the hearts and minds of British Rugby League fans.
When his career is all said and done, there is no doubt that Sam Tomkins will have won a number of Grand Finals and Challenge Cups for Wigan. He is in the right team, at the right place, at the right time. However, when he finds himself on the outer with fans, even after retirement, he will have no one to blame but himself. Rugby League fans have long memories, and Tomkins went out of his way to put a stain on what should have been a great occasion for us all.
Don’t feel sorry for him. He made his bed, now he has to lie in it.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
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