JOE Philbin acknowledges growing up as a farmer’s son has helped to shape him into the man and Warrington Wolves player he is today.

In swapping cow fields for rugby fields, the work ethic and toughness can be seen in the swashbuckling way in which the Warringtonian plies his trade.

This human tank is fast becoming a hero on the Halliwell Jones Stadium terraces for the ‘all or nothing’ explosive ball-carrying exploits that get his team on the front foot.

And he also just happened to score the all-important semi-final try against Hull that is taking The Wire to Wembley for an astonishing sixth Challenge Cup Final in 11 years.

“I am a farmer’s lad and I think if I didn’t play the way I play my dad would be calling me soft,” said the 24-year-old as he and his dad Pat showed the Guardian around the family cattle farm in Glazebury.

“It’s just the way I play.

“When I was growing up, I used to love watching the big lads who would steam in with the ball.

“I thought that’s how I want to play. That’s what I love about the game, seeing somebody put their all into every collision.

“I like to pride myself on not having much self-preservation and giving my all for the team. I put my body on the line every time.

“And when going into matches with Warrington I know that I’ve got 16 other blokes who’d do that for me.

“We’ve got a real team mentality here this year. We all do it for each other.

“Bryson Goodwin’s another, I see him go flying out and putting his body on the line so that makes me think I’ll go and do it, so we feed off each other.”

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Joe Philbin and dad Pat. Picture by Mike Boden

Pat explained how, as a way of life, working hard preceded playing hard for Joe and his four brothers.

“We all had to work together as a family,” he said.

“If his mum Mary was working I was the taxi driver for the five lads, but first job is all the cows and livestock have to be looked after before doing any sport or anything else,” he said.

“So that’s what we did. We used to get up at 7.30am on Saturdays to kick things off on the farm, then by around 10am we could take them to different locations for swimming, football, rugby, cricket, whatever they were doing.

“The main thing with livestock is your checking them every day. Has one got a bad eye, bad leg, whatever. You have to see to them yourself if you can, but if you can’t then you have to get the vet.

“These kids have seen all that and it has helped them in life I would say. Also there was trust involved, getting on with things on their own.

“When they were about 14/15 we got them to the point that they could drive a tractor and do a bit of field work.”

Joe, who earlier this year moved with girlfriend Laura Buckley into their own place in Great Sankey, says they are happy memories growing up around the farm, which is run by his dad and his uncles.

“My dad used to make me work hard for everything,” he said.

“I remember cleaning up a blister one day. One of the cattle had the worst blood blister I’ve ever seen. Dad popped it and it took me a full day to clean up all the blood.

“I remember getting all the manual labour and rubbish jobs.

“Sometimes there’d be a big trailer full of tyres and I’d have to jump in the trailer and chuck them off.

“I’d spend ages doing that and then go and play a football match, because from about the age of four to 15 I used to play football not rugby.

“I reckon the work on the farm was good for toughening you up for the sporting world.

“I also remember when my rugby started to get a bit serious, my dad used to say it would be good for you to run across the bales that we had in the field. So I used to do that, it was funny.

“With having four brothers as well at meal times you had to fight for your food.

“It was chips and steak every night because we have a beef farm. I was very well fed, put it that way. I was a pretty big kid.

“It was good. It’s definitely grounded me.

“In the summer holidays he’d give me a fiver a day for working on the farm, which I used to think was unbelievable but it’s slave labour now when I think about it.

“It’s about 50p an hour, but I was buzzing to get my pocket money.

“It’s good memories, but these days I have to focus on my training and recovery so I can’t help him too much because I have to look after the body.”

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Pat, who will be among the Wembley crowd with the rest of the family, said: “I’m proud of Joe.

“Having the career in rugby is something I never thought would happen, because of only starting at 15, but it has and all credit to him because he’s working hard at it and deserves what comes of it.”

We put it to Joe that fans might start singing 'Old Joe Philbin had a farm, e-i-e-i-o' on matchdays after reading this.

He laughed and said: "Yeah, go on, print that in the Guardian."

Joe said that it was his mum’s love that meant he was a late starter in rugby league

“She’s a worrier, out of the big heart that she has,” he said.

“She used to be petrified of me getting my teeth knocked out or getting hurt in any way.

“My mum’s still a nervous wreck watching me now - she just needs a glass of bubbles before she watches me.

“So, she was protective. I got to the age of 15 and I was a bit over football, I’d been playing it since I was four.

“I said ‘Mum, I’m going to do rugby’. I remember for the first training session she said she wouldn’t take me so I had to walk through the fields from Glazebury for training with Culcheth Eagles.

“It was only after a few games that I got picked up by Warrington, and she started to realise there could be a future in it for me.

“She then used to take me to all my scholarship training sessions in Birchwood and they were good memories with her.

“I had played one or two games at school, but it was Culcheth Eagles where I really started playing.

“I went there as a 15-year-old, playing in the bottom division where not many people get spotted.

“I think it was a lucky break really.

“There was a scout watching another team and they just saw a bit of raw talent in me.

“When they realised I’d only played a few games they maybe thought they could do something with me.

“I got on the pathway and have been on it ever since, just kept on climbing to get where I am today.”

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There is some irony for Philbin in that his girlfriend’s family are from St Helens and all are Saints fans.

“Her family are Saints mad,” he said.

“She’s a convert, though to be fair she wasn’t too bothered about rugby and now she’s just my biggest fan.

“But all of her side of the family are all from St Helens and I have a good craic with them when I go round. It’s all in good fun.

“We’d be at little parties and they’ll be singing Saints songs so I’ll start some Warrington songs.

“It’s all in good fun and that’s what the sport of rugby league is all about.”

“She definitely helps me out. She looks after me and gives me as little to do as possible, so I’m grateful for that.”

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