JONNY Lomax has always had something of a special vantage point when it comes to the Saints v Wigan rivalry, growing up as a fan in Billinge and playing his junior rugby across the border at Orrell St James.

So from boy to man, fan to young player and now club captain, Lomax knows only too well what the biggest and most meaningful derby in rugby league means – especially the Good Friday one.

St Helens Star: Jonny Lomax

Given the passion involved, the history and what it means, it is a game that can make or break Easter for the thousands of followers either side of the great divide.

And that’s even before we look at the significance and impact it has on the top end of the Super League table – two different wars being waged for separate prizes, over one frenzied 80 minute spell in front of the most fervent and partisan crowd.

And although Lomax’s feet have always been rooted firmly in the red vee camp, he is close enough to the border to be able to peep over and see white what it also means to those Cherry and Whites on the Dark side.

Lomax said: “It’s huge and growing up in Billinge, I’ve always been in the middle of it.

"I’ve always known how much it means and playing my amateur rugby at Orrell St James, I have always had that kind of to and fro' and bit of stick for each other, even if you weren’t playing and it just being fans.

“That’s something that you definitely know, and people will be into you this week saying that this is the only one that matters.

“And that’s what it is. It is huge. It’s a huge rivalry.

“It’s shown just by the fact that you live in essentially one road splitting the two towns, which I basically live on being that much in the middle.

“But then added to that huge rivalry beyond the locations is the actual fact that there’s two teams that have been high performers for a number of years and that only adds to the spice really.”

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The game has been sold out for weeks, and social media sites has been awash with fans desperately seeking spares that it is possible to envisage the outer ring of the Totally Wicked Stadium being visited by Stan Flashman’s ghost come Friday and hear a southern twang: “Anyone need seats?”

But all that has fed into a buzz that has certainly fed through to the playing camp, especially now that they have got back-to-back wins on the road at Headingley out of the way.

Lomax said: “It’s something that you look forward to as a player.

“We have got a couple of players from overseas that will not have played in this game, but if you’re in around this game as a young lad as a supporter, then you know the size of it.

“You are brought up on it and it becomes the one, as a supporter, you circle.

“I was no different as a young lad and it’s something that even if you don’t understand the magnitude of this game, you pick up on the atmosphere and the build up to the game, just how big it is.”

The Saints players have had their head on the week-to-week Super League and then a tough Challenge Cup mission at Leeds to think too far ahead to this game, and that, combined with the poor weather and a relatively early Easter has meant the game appears to have arrived suddenly.

“In some ways it’s almost crept up on us a little bit this year because the weather’s been so awful.

“Normally Easters are cracking the flags and you know that spring is here but at the moment you would think we were still in November.

“It’s kind of crept up a little bit, but at the same time it’s fantastic now that this week is here because it is one we do look forward to,” Lomax said.

“It has a different feel and you know the atmosphere is something that you definitely pick up on as a player.

“You know that fans are always going to deliver with the noise on a Good Friday home or away.

“It is something you do pick up on that as a player as well and that’s why you do look forward to it with this game because you know the fans will be loud, they’ll be proud and you hope they can carry on singing throughout the game.”

Lomax has plenty of memories as a fan and player. His first on the field was the 2011 clash at the DW Stadium which saw Saints denied by a last-minute Liam Farrell try.

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Lomax said: “You’re involved in some and watch so many that they sometimes to do blend in to one and obviously you remember the Paul Sculthorpe and Andy Farrell, Dom Feaunati incident because it was obviously a little bit different than some of the other Good Fridays.

“In terms of then the ones you play in you probably do weirdly remember some defeats.

“My first Good Friday game was the one won by the late Liam Farrell try in the last minute.

“You remember some of them because the heartache of that game probably gets you a bit more than some of the ups and I think that’s what people don’t always realise as fans.

“We should probably live those incredible highs is a bit more.

“But the fact of the matter is because of that week-to-week and next job mentality, we probably dwell on some more of the downs or the emotional heartache.”

There will be a cacophony of noise at the start of the game.

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But does that impact on Lomax and how loud he has to shout in marshalling the troops on Friday?

He responded: “Sometimes it’s better to be honest.

“In some ways it’s probably harder for them to hear, but us as players, we thrive on that atmosphere.

“You want to be involved in big atmosphere games.

“If games are quiet, if it’s a bit eerie and you kind of have to create your own atmosphere.

“But sometimes you walk out on to the pitch and the fans are loud and proud and straight away – you are thinking ‘how good is this?’ “There’s just a different feel, and that’s something that you know you’re always going to get on a Good Friday game, something that you’d love to have every game.

“It’s something that you certainly do feel the difference.

“You get a right real buzz from it, adrenaline and everything else going a bit more.

“But you’d love that kind of wow, proud, singing all of the time.”

But the game is about more than history given that Wigan are not only Super League Champions but earlier this year took Saints’ World Club Challenge as well with their own win over Penrith.

Wigan want to build a dynasty to rival the one Saints had between 2019-23 - but Lomax and Paul Wellens et al, don’t want that to be the end of the line for their own crop just yet.

So it is a real clash of the Titans and fight for the future, not the past.

“The game steeped in history, but what’s added to that is you’ve got two teams that in the past have been high performers and two teams that continue to challenge in today’s day and age.

“That always adds to the rivalry and it’s something that I believe is probably why it’s still the standout fixture in the league.”

As for his first game as skipper, it is something Lomax is taking in his stride.

He said: “It is not something that I really considered or thought about.

“In a kind of way I am just thinking week-to-week and just try to do my best, and put my best foot forward.

“It’s something that will probably be a proud moment, probably something that I probably won’t consider on the day, but it’ll certainly be a proud moment when I look back.

“It’ll be a proud moment for my family, even more so of no doubt.

“In kind of a weird way - and I suppose it’s the same for most people in any role - it’s just that kind of next job mentality, and you can’t be drowned in the emotion of it.

“It’s something that’s quite nice, but at the end of the day, there’s other things that will be nicer on a Friday and that is trying to deliver a result.”