THEY are usually brothers in arms spearheading their local rugby league club’s pack, but two scrummaging siblings from Leigh will line up as opponents for the first time in their careers this weekend.
Shaun Whiteside, 41, and his brother Mike, 38, will face each other in the final of the Shaw Cup, a knock-out competition between teams representing pubs in Leigh, on Friday evening (December 16) at Leigh Miners, Twist Lane, ko 7pm.
The brothers have played together countless times for Leigh East, but all that will come to an end when Shaun runs out for The Red Cat and Mick packs down for opponents The Centurion.
Shaun, who has played professionally for Salford and Chorley and represented his country in the BARLA Great Britain U19s team, says there will definitely be no quarter given.
He said: “I’m going to run straight at him the first time I get the ball. It’s definitely going to be a full-blooded game. They’ve got Lee Hansen playing for them and he never took a backwards step during his career, and I know Mick won’t either.
“We’re both quite big characters and well-known around Leigh, so I think a lot of people are looking forward to seeing us go head to head.”
Mike, who has also played professional rugby league for Swinton, said: “I’m made up about it. All the way through the competition, since I found out he was playing for The Red Cat, I’ve been hoping we’d avoid each other until the final.
“It hasn’t quite worked out how I thought, because I came to Leigh East to finish my career alongside Shaun after playing for the Miners Rangers, and now I’ve ended up playing against him.”
However, Shaun’s presence in The Centurion team at all is something of a surprise, as he has only recently returned to rugby league after suffering a very serious neck injury two and a half years ago.
He said: “I snapped it in three different places, and spent a year in a neck brace and two years out the game. At first I was really worried about taking the field again, but I’d just missed it so much and wanted to play again.
“As soon as I got on the pitch it was fine, you just don’t think about that sort of thing at all in the heat of battle.”
The build-up in the Whiteside households has been a fairly light-hearted affair, with Shaun saying he has been on the receiving end of much of the banter from the rest of his family.
He said: “Mick’s been playing a bit of mind games, he’s been on the phone several times saying what he’s going to do, but it’s not working.
“All the kids are really excited about it, but most of them are ribbing me, saying our Mick’s going to beat me, so I’m having to try and defend myself.”
Mike said: “It’s just a bit of banter at the end of the day, but I’ve got youth on my side so I don’t even think it will be a challenge to beat him.
“We’re a really close-knit family and my mum and dad can’t wait to see it, though of course they’re having to keep out of taking sides.”
Both brothers say the revival of the Shaw Cup after an absence of some 20 years has had a big effect on Leigh.
And Shaun added: “It’s brought a lot of lads together, and it was a cracking idea to bring it back.
“It’s got a good community spirit going in Leigh, which wasn’t there before when pubs were closing, but now they all want to be involved and it’s a real talking point.”