Story of a Super League prop: The story of

BBC Click profiles the rags-to-riches story of a rugby league prop from Lancashire who went from unlikely riches to vowing never to return to rugby league – and back to his former profession in just eight years. In 1999, Justin Lenahan, aged 22, made his England debut for Warrington. Three years later, he was drafted into their squad for the first Grand Final against Leeds. It was another one of those years when the Wolves were flying high – they went into the match as the dominant side in Super League, having just won their first Grand Final since 1990. In one move, the club clinched a place in the Guinness Premiership, cementing themselves as one of the game’s “big four”. And if they had won the game, they were certain to make the top four – they had won 12 of their 14 games that season. That season they were competing with Leeds, St Helens and Wigan for the top four places. It was a blockbuster of a match and when Warrington boss Tony Smith was asked if he had ever seen a bigger one, he replied: “I think that’s probably an accurate statement.” “I don’t know about that”, responded referee Kevin Jeffries. One key moment came when Wigan’s Tom Hickman was sent off – and sent down the tunnel in tears. In the bath, Hickman asked Jeffries to send Warrington on, and Jeffries, along with his assistant Ben Hornby, agreed. In the end, the Wolves went on to lose the game 21-0, but not before they had thrown it away once more – losing a first-half try by try-scoring number one player Ryan Atkins, which had seemingly been given. Next day, Joe Collis went on to score the first of his two tries in that game for Leeds against Saints. Within a couple of weeks, the club’s fortunes went from bad to worse. The club captain Jamie Langley and wing Matt King both retired, and Warrington slumped to 11th in the Super League table, sitting three points above relegation, before collecting the first of their three successive losses at Salford. Funny things are going to happen to people from the north.

Justin Lenahan But this latest defeat – their fifth successive loss and the third in a row – kicked off a tumultuous period. Under the guidance of then stand-in coach Steve Price, Warrington clung on to the second play-off spot with five games to go. They headed out to Metz to play Championship side Widnes on 22 February. For six weeks, it seemed every week there would be a transfer of players and players would still be missing from training as coaches thought that maybe they might have another chance in the Super League. It all paid off. Warrington sacked head coach Smith and replaced him with former Australia skipper Brian Noble. Noble brought his own coaching staff, a new attitude and encouraged the full squad to take an active part in the last training session – just as they had done under Tony Smith. “It was before the start of the season,” said Lenahan. “The whole group had known each other for a couple of years, so Brian had no worries whatsoever in trusting them to go out and do their thing. “I remember being exhausted but not knowing what we were doing because we hadn’t been in a regular training regime. “He let us go out and do our thing, which was great. We were all given a bit of individual space to let our mind-set, physical and mental, take over and just let ourselves go. “The coaching staff and some of the players in the first team also knew each other. Everyone knew how everyone else was going to be.” From then on, Warrington’s fortunes swung wildly – a nice win in Saints’ living room, a win in a game where Warrington went through the entire first half without a try. There was also a loss to Leeds, who won the meeting 19-16 in Warrington’s first defeat for 21 games, but a win at St Helens and two other home games gave Warrington confidence before they travelled to Leeds. And when they were eventually beaten 19-16, no one saw it coming – but that didn’t stop them flying the nest again. On 3 April, just a week after making his England debut, Lenahan was involved in the club’s private plane crash while flying from France to North Wales to play at Wrexham FC’s Racecourse. Nine days later, he announced his retirement from rugby league and began a new chapter in his life. He married his fiancee, Heather, in September 2008 and is now a keen skier. Reflecting on his rugby league career, Lenahan said: “It’s been a pretty incredible thing to see, the way it has all come together, and how much money it has brought me. It’s been a remarkable journey. I really can

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