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Zach Eckersley follows Kevin Sinfield at Wembley as RL remembers Rob Burrow

ZACH Eckersley has seen the great Rob Burrow’s impact locally – he lives down the road from his friend and former captain Kevin Sinfield.

As rugby league came together to celebrate the late icon at the national stadium, he announced himself as the latest Saddleworth star.

Zach Eckersley became a Wembley wonder with a try as Wigan lifted the Challenge Cup

Now he has followed his more illustrious near neighbour in coming through at Oldham-based amateur club Waterhead and becoming a Wigan Wembley hero.

After replacing suspended Adam Keighran, the 20-year-old grabbed the opening try as the Warriors completed the full set – holding the League Leaders’ Shield, Super League trophy, World Club Challenge and the Challenge Cup simultaneously.

It took Sinfield and fellow Peach Road products including Paul Sculthorpe and Barrie McDermott hundreds of matches to achieve Wembley glory.

Wigan centre Eckersley needed only FIVE – ONE in the famous competition.

The 20-year-old, who hails from the Springhead area – a mile-and-a-half from Sinfield, said: “I’m a Saddleworth boy and obviously Kev’s the biggest name from around Saddleworth.

“This was all about Rob Burrow, Kev’s best mate, so the whole day was testament to Rob.

“He was a great player and it was great to do that for his family.

“I went to school with Kev’s lad Jack. We played together in school team. We had a great team and got to the national final. I’ve not spoken to them much since but I know they’d have been rooting for me as a local boy.

“It’s a bit surreal. When I started the year, I didn’t expect to be playing at Wembley but everything happens for a reason.

“Obviously, I feel bad for Adam but he helped me all week.”

After Keighran was banned for being sent off in the Super League match between the sides, Wigan boss Matt Peet told Eckersley he was in.

The Warriors sorted tickets for his family – 17 of them – and when Lance Todd Trophy winner Bevan French slipped a kick through, he touched down.

The late, great Rob Burrow was remembered by rugby league on a day of emotion at Wembley

“It was a weird moment,” Eckersley admitted as video ref Liam Moore confirmed the score. “All the fans roared and I didn’t really know what to do.

“I celebrated and when it came up as a try, I was just buzzing. You obviously dream about scoring tries at the best stadiums in the world like Wembley, so it’s a dream come true.

“Matty called last Monday night after everything came out about the ban. He told me I’d be playing. I was just excited, looking forward to it, but nervous as well, which is understandable.

“It was my fifth appearance and my first Challenge Cup appearance.

“But the main thing was just to relax. I knew when the game started, I’d come into my own.”

Chalk Eckersley down as the latest Waterhead product to get his hands on the trophy after French and Liam Farrell also went over, while another, Josh Thewlis, opened the scoring with a penalty for Warrington.

Matt Dufty’s try was not enough as the little club nestled off a main road toasts another local boy done good as Wigan made it 21 Challenge Cups.

Wigan extended their record by winning their 21st Challenge Cup

Just the area he hails from has plenty of top flight representation and Eckersley believes the attitude gained living there breeds talent.

He said: “Huddersfield’s Oliver Russell is just down the road, while Fenton Rogers is around the corner.

“Warrington’s Tom Whitehead is there while Jacob Douglas at Wigan is a couple of streets away. There’s a lot of good talent around Oldham and Saddleworth.

“It’s just like Wigan. It’s a working-class town, a massive rugby town and everyone just loves working hard and playing rugby.

“There are a lot of idols you can look up to. Paul, Kevin and Barrie are all from Oldham. It’s a great place to be from.

“I’ve had a few chats with Barrie actually. He’s spoken to me quite a bit and I appreciate everything he’s done for me.

“And with Josh on the other team, there was a guaranteed winner from Waterhead.”


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