Wigan Warriors fans in a league of their own

20:13, Feb 12 2014
Clash of the Warriors
Warriors player Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard scores a try.
Clash of the Warriors
Dedicated fans at Waikato Stadium watch the Wigan Warriors v New Zealand’s Vodafone Warriors.
Clash of the Warriors
Dedicated fans at Waikato Stadium watch the Wigan Warriors v New Zealand’s Vodafone Warriors.
Clash of the Warriors
Dedicated fans at Waikato Stadium watch Wigan Warriors v New Zealand’s Vodafone Warriors.
Clash of the Warriors
Teamwork: The Warriors defence combine to hold up a Wigan attack at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton last night. However, the visitors rallied to run out convincing 46-22 winners.

John Shaw is the embodiment of the die-hard sports fan.

Even though there were two Warriors rugby league teams playing at Waikato Stadium last night, Mr Shaw recognises only one.

"There's only one Warriors, and they're from Wigan."

wigan warriors
BROTHERS IN ARMS: English fans Gary, John and Paul Shaw show their Wigan Warriors colours with pride. The touring side played New Zealand’s Vodafone Warriors at Waikato Stadium last night.

The tattoo across his chest reads "Ancient and Loyal" - the script comes straight from the Wigan crest. It's just one of six tattoos dedicated to the English side.

This tour marks his third trip Down Under to cheer on his team, Hamilton being just one stop on a worldwide journey to earn the "die hard" title.

Last night he was wearing a Wigan scarf, flag and jersey. How many Wigan shirts has he got? He's lost count.

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"A wardrobe full." A man walks past and Mr Shaw is starstruck: "That's Graeme West." West is a Kiwi, but played for Wigan from 1982 to 1991 and later coached them. The statistics avalanche from Mr Shaw's mouth.

"He led us to cup victory. We didn't lose with him."

Shaw is loud, he's proud, he's born and bred Wigan.

"We'll out-shout the Kiwis, oh easy. I'll do it on me own," he boasted.

And shout they did. As the Wigan Warriors took to the field on a mild Waikato evening, the stand erupted. Despite having numbers on their side, the Kiwi fans only just matched the volume.

But their support was there, even if there were some divided loyalties.

Graeme Lee's hat was black and white, adorned with a Warriors logo, as were his shorts, but a Wigan shirt lay in between. Mr Lee, of Tauranga, described his look as "cross-dressing".

He and his wife Pam travel all over to support the Kiwi team. They're season ticket-holders and attend every home game. They're even heading to the Gold Coast to watch the boys.

But despite his immense support for the Warriors, Mr Lee was happy no matter what the final score was.

"The winner on the day is going to be rugby league."

Waikato Times