Alongside David Clegg, Lee Mossop Looks Back Over The Career Which Has Resulted in His Joining Salford
Much as it is every professional player’s dream to be in a team which goes on to win one of the two major trophies of the season and consequently have the opportunity of lifting the resultant silverware aloft, this latter proved to be rather more problematic than might have been expected for prop forward, Lee Mossop,on his first such opportunity.
The occasion was the 2011 Challenge Cup Final, v Leeds Rhinos, and Lee, resplendent in the liveries of Wigan Warriors, having missed out on their Grand Final appearance of the previous season, owing to surgery on a shoulder, was making his first appearance on the massive stage of Wembley, when, on only the second tackle of the game, he, yet again, dislocated his shoulder.
Determined that this would not be the end of his time out on the field, he asked for the shoulder to be reset, and then went on to make a full contribution to the Warriors’ subsequent victory.  The problem came, when, having been presented with the Cup, itself, it was his turn to hold it up high, for all their supporters to see.  With only one arm capable of this, he became eternally grateful to teammate, Sam Tomkins, who took hold of the other side, and between them they were able to soak the applause of the fans.
Although we tend to think that virtually every player who dons a Wigan shirt is a Wiganer, born and bred, there are a number who are not, and Lee, as a proud Cumbrian, is one of these.  Indeed, growing up in Whitehaven, it was with local side, Hensingham ARLFC, that he first took up the game, following in the steps of his older brother, at the age of five, in their U7s team.
Once the lads were old enough to be allocated positions, Lee was selected in the second row, where, other than occasional moves to loose-forward, and even more unusual outings at prop, he invariably operated.  The back row suited him greatly, at this time, as he enjoyed hitting good lines and running clever angles in the space afforded out towards the edge.
Indeed it was not until the arrival of Australian coach, Michael McGuire, to Wigan, in 2010, that he made the move up front, to prop.
“It was a bit of a shock at the time, because I thought I still had a few years at second row left in me, but, once I had made the move, I found it really suited me with the constant involvement throughout, and I liked it better,” he reflects.
As a youngster, he especially liked defending and would get stuck into opposing players regardless of their size with little or no thought for his own wellbeing.
“I was much better at it back then,” he recalls.  “When you are young you don’t think about it at all – you just fly in.”
The effect of this, over the years, was his sustaining of a number of shoulder injuries, which required him to take much greater care in protecting them in order to safeguard his future in the game.
“There was a period when it was affecting me and my game, but this season I have started getting back to where I once was,” he is happy to report.
His side at Hensingham, as he progressed through the age ranges, proved to be a really dominant team, and, in the period between U13s and U16s, won every local cup available.  They did struggle however, when being drawn against the top Super League clubs involved in the National Cup, and their best showing in that saw them win through to the quarter finals, where they succumbed to Scarborough Pirates.
During this time, he was beginning to catch the eye, with his performances, and was, consequently selected to attend first, Regional, which then led on to National, Camps.  It was after one of the later ones that he learned he had been recognised as the best player there, and won the award for this, news of which came to the ears of Wigan Warriors.
At the age of sixteen, therefore, it was all change as he left the rural delights of Cumbria to join the Warriors’ Academy.  This necessitated his leaving home to move south to Wigan, where he was accommodated, for the next five years.
“It was a bit daunting initially, but, once I arrived, I settled in, and made friends at both college and club,” he remembers.  “They were very full days, with my college course, and training, so there was very little thinking time, and that in itself helped me to settle in.”
Another element which would have also assisted in this was the fact that, as with virtually every Wigan Youth team, they won by far the majority of their matches, and after playing in his first game against Castleford, Lee went on to be a part of the side which won three consecutive Grand Finals.
At the same time, Lee was carving out a reputation for himself at national level, having been called into the England side with the U17s.  The following year, most remarkably, he received the ultimate honour of captaining the side on a tour of Australia, which, although somewhat lacking in victories, enhanced the development and skill level of all those who were a part of the squad.  Little did he know, at the time, that one of his opponents in one encounter, a certain Willie Isa, would, several years later, be lining up alongside him, in the Wigan first team.
David Clegg’s Recount Of Lee Mossop’s Career Concludes Tomorrow