WIGAN and England captain Sean O’Loughlin said today that he has no plans to hang up his boots as he prepares to go head to head with another elder statesman of Super League.
Fresh from his man-of-the-match performance in the Warriors’ 32-23 win over Catalans Dragons in Perpignan, the 35-year-old loose forward remains a key figure in his club’s drive for honours.
But O’Loughlin says Leeds’s own golden oldie, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, who turns 37 on August 1, is just as crucial for the defending champions who host Wigan in a top-four clash at Headingley Stadium tonight.
“He’s going really well,” O’Loughlin said. “He’s still a big player for them.
“We’ve seen some of their senior lads go, like Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow and Jamie Peacock, over the past few years and Jonesy has been one of those players who keeps driving the standards at training.
“He’s kind of the the heartbeat of the club and he’s contributing massively to their performances.”
Wigan coach Shaun Wane is full of admiration too for Jones-Buchanan, another one-club man who has made an impressive start to the season.
“He’s a competitor,” Wane said. “I admire what he’s done in the game.
“He’s a great player and I love my team playing against him because you know it’s game on with him. He doesn’t give an inch.”
While Jones-Buchanan, the second-oldest man in Super League behind Warrington forward Ben Westwood, has hinted that this may be his last season, O’Loughlin has a contract option for 2019 and has no thoughts about retirement.
“People have been asking me that for about five years now,” he said. “I keep saying I’ll play for as long as I feel I can contribute.”
O’Loughlin says players can now continue well into their thirties thanks to advances in training methods as well as recovery and treatment of injuries while the club use a GPS tracking device to ensure he does not overtrain.
Australian Steve Menzies was two months short of his 40th birthday when he played his last match in Super League, while Adrian Morley played until he was 38, as did Jamie Peacock, who came out of retirement to play for Hull KR in 2016.
“They’ve managed me pretty well now for a number of years,” O’Loughlin said.
“The protocol in place for recovery is of a lot higher standard than when I started out 15 or 16 years ago. People look after their bodies better.
“The age of retirement creeps up due to the science and the gym work you do.
“You train a lot smarter, it’s more precise training and you come back quicker and better from operations because of the advances off the field.”
O’Loughlin signed a new 12-month contract last October with an option for 2019 which he seems certain to exercise.
“You’re a long time retired,” he said. “I’d be disappointed in myself if I hung my boots up too soon, but then again you’ve got to make sure you’re doing the right thing by yourself and the club.”
O’Loughlin is relishing a trip to Headingley, despite it being something of a bogey ground for Wigan, who have lost their last seven meetings there in a run stretching back to 2012.
“They’re enjoyable games to play in,” O’Loughlin added. “Headingley is a tough place to go.
“We’ve not picked up many results now for a couple of years, but the boys relish the rivalry that we’ve created over the past 10 or 15 years.”
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