23rd August 2017, 13:54 | Wigan

Clubb out to complete fairytale return

Clubb out to complete fairytale return

Londoner Tony Clubb will put 15 months of heartache behind him on Saturday when he runs out in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final at Wembley.

Wigan Warriors' former England international thought his career was about to be brought to a premature end earlier this year when he was told he would have to have a kidney removed.

That followed horrific surgery last summer in which he had to have his throat sliced open and a metal cage inserted in his spine.

In between, the ex-London Broncos forward experienced the personal tragedy of losing his father Michael to cancer.

Clubb was close to his father, who had witnessed his debut for England and both his professional clubs, but knows there will be no shortage of family support when he plays in his first Wembley final.

"The Challenge Cup is massive for me, being from down south, and it's the one that I've not won," he said. "I've played in every one bar this, so it will be a very proud day for me."

Clubb, who was born on the Isle of Dogs near Canary Wharf and began playing rugby league with the Greenwich Admirals, missed last year's cup semi-final defeat by Hull FC as well as Wigan's Grand-Final triumph over Warrington Wolves with a neck injury that kept him out for five months.

"It was a bad one was that," he recalled. "I went for a low tackle and I got crunched up.

"It stopped the oxygen to my brain and it knocked me out. I lost a bit of feeling in my arm and I went for a scan and they told me I had a disc pressed on my spinal cord.

"I had to have my throat cut and a metal cage put in my spine. That will be in there with me for life."

Undeterred, Clubb recovered in time to help Shaun Wane's men defeat Cronulla Sharks in the Dacia World Club Challenge in February, but his world was turned upside down in April when he discovered one of his kidneys was no longer functioning.

Clubb said: "When they said they were going to have to take it out, I thought, 'Well that's it. I can't play without one of my organs'.

"I told my wife that it could possibly be the end of it. I had a few days when I thought of so many different things, 'Why me? why has it happened?'

"Even to this day, they can't tell me why it happened, I don't know whether I've took a whack on it or it's happened from birth.

"But I went to see the specialist and he said, 'You're going to be fine. We'll whip it out and you'll be back in six to eight weeks'.

"So to go from an absolute massive low to ringing Waney absolutely over-joyed was massive for me. It was the boost I needed."

Clubb underwent keyhole surgery on the NHS and was back playing by July.

He has appeared in the Warriors' last eight matches, including their semi-final win over Salford Red Devils, with no ill-effects.

"It's going very well, back to normal," he said. "Loads of people have one kidney, a lot of people don't know they have one kidney because they never have any problems with it.

"Long term it's not going to change anything in my life, the only thing I've got to do is go back once a year and have a scan to check that my other kidney is functioning.

"Obviously you are going to take a lot of bangs in the kidney and the back and, when I first got on against Widnes, I was thinking, 'Please go well'.

"But once I got the ball and took it in and realised I wasn't going to fall to pieces, I just got on with my job. And it's not crossed my mind since. You've just got to crack on and help the boys."

Clubb is looking forward to his first visit to the stadium for the captain's run on Friday and has been besieged with around 20 tickets requests from his family for the match against Hull.

"I went to the old stadium on a school trip years and years ago, just for a visit, but I've never been to the new one," he said. "My mum said how good would it be to come home and play.

"I'm going to have a lot of family there which will make it extra special. There's a lot of family who have not been able to get up to Wigan and watch me play there.

"They're all really excited and they won't have far to go. They're going to make a day of it."