Super League 2023: Wigan Warriors' testimonial man Sam Powell shows the way for next generation
Entering his 11th season, Sam Powell is preparing for life after playing by gaining coaching experience as part of Wigan's academy set-up, having come through the same system in his youth; watch 66 matches in the 2023 Betfred Super League season live on Sky Sports
Last Updated: 17/01/23 5:56am
For a young player making their way through Wigan Warriors' renowned youth set-up, there could hardly be a better person at the club to aspire to than Sam Powell.
The hooker is one of those who has trodden the well-worn path from junior rugby league with his community club, into Wigan's scholarship and academy teams, and onto the first team where he has been part of two Betfred Super League Grand Final triumphs.
Now aged 30 and entering his testimonial season with the Warriors, it is no surprise Powell has his eye on the future and is currently giving up one night a week to gain coaching experience with Wigan's academy, as well as help develop and inspire the next generation.
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"The players in our academy want to get better and want to improve," Powell told Sky Sports. "It's great to see them coming in as boys, and as they progress to the reserves and the first team, they leave as men.
"The change you see in them is massive and I want to coach when I'm done playing. I'm doing that one night a week, maybe up it to two next year, and hopefully it will make that transition when I retire a bit smoother.
"If I look back now on my academy days, although it has gone really, really quick to where I am now, it was probably my most enjoyable days. There was pressure, but not like there is now - and you play with your mates as well so it's really good."
Now a mainstay for his hometown club, Powell made his first foray into rugby league with community club Wigan St Patricks on the fields of Clarington Park, barely two miles away from the DW Stadium where the England Knights No 9 plies his trade.
I want to coach when I'm done playing. I'm doing that one night a week, maybe up it to two next year, and hopefully it will make that transition when I retire a bit smoother.
Wigan testimonial man Sam Powell on looking to the future
Fellow St Pats alums Liam Marshall, Liam Farrell, Ethan Havard and Joe Shorrocks are among his Warriors team-mates who have all followed the same route too, and it is a pathway Powell wants to ensure remains open for the area's talented youngsters.
"It's massive," Powell said. "We've got some really good amateur clubs [in Wigan] and they want players in there.
"Now we've got an opportunity where we can get in there, we have to do it and as a club more than anything we're producing our own.
"I'm lucky enough to be involved with that doing a bit of coaching now, and I'm lucky enough to see people coming from amateur up into our academy and progressing."
On the field, Wigan enter the 2023 season aiming to defend the Betfred Challenge Cup - won for a record-extending 20th time last May - and exceed last year's Super League campaign which saw them finish second in the table and bow out to Leeds Rhinos in the play-off semi-finals.
Powell, whose testimonial comes in a pre-season clash at home to Salford Red Devils on February 5 before the Warriors kick off the new Super League season away to Hull Kingston Rovers on February 18, did not play in that Cup final win over Huddersfield Giants due to suspension although was there to cheer his team-mates on.
And while this is a year to on a personal level, he is determined to add more honours to the two Grand Final winners' rings he has from Wigan's Old Trafford triumphs in 2016 and 2018.
"To be at Wigan for what will be 11 years and such a special club is a real privilege - and one I don't take lightly," Powell said.
"It's going to be a special year where I get to celebrate with my family and friends, but it has got to be a successful year on the field."
The 2023 Betfred Super League season kicks-off in February with two fixtures from Round 1 live on Sky Sports and streaming on NOW TV. Grand Final runners-up Leeds Rhinos travel to Warrington Wolves on Thursday February 16, followed by promoted Leigh Leopards hosting Salford Red Devils on Friday February 17.