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My uncles are Prem cult heroes – I'm making my own way in different sport

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JUNIOR NSEMBA is using the gospel to propel him to new heights after living in his father’s shadow.

As the 19-year-old Wigan phenomenon points out with a grimace on his face, he may be 6ft five-and-a-half inches but dad Pascal stood at 6ft 6ins!

Junior Nsemba is making his name for Wigan Warriors

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Junior Nsemba is making his name for Wigan WarriorsCredit: Getty
Cameroon legend Rigobert Song, who played for Liverpool and West Ham, is Nsemba's uncle

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Cameroon legend Rigobert Song, who played for Liverpool and West Ham, is Nsemba’s uncleCredit: PA:Empics Sport
Ex-Arsenal man Alex Song is also the uncle and cousin of Nsemba

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Ex-Arsenal man Alex Song is also the uncle and cousin of NsembaCredit: Alan Walter – The Times

The back rower has been the find of the season and is already attracting interest from the NRL after a stellar impact.

Warriors fans have already come up with a great song he loves, instead of tequila, they all chant ‘Nsemba!’

And despite being born and brought up in the town, he has a sporting family background in Cameroon as uncle Rigobert Song was a UEFA Cup winner with Liverpool.

Nsemba tried his hand at football as a kid, playing at centre half or centre forward because he was so tall, but once he tried rugby league, that was the sport for him.

Now to become a winner after sitting out their World Club Challenge win – and the Lord will play a part as he looks to see off Warrington.

“Before a game, I’ll listen to a bit of drill music or r’n’b,” said Nsemba, who revealed dad Pascal, whose sister is married to Rigobert, is in regular contact with his uncle and cousin, former Arsenal star Alex.

“Then 10 minutes before our meeting, I’ll put a bit of gospel on. I’m a Christian, so I’ll listen to that then I’ll pray.

“I have a cross on my wrist tape and before a game, I get on my knees and pray to God to protect both teams, to protect me and wish for a good game.

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“But once you’re in a game, you’re in a game of rugby. It’s intense, it’s fast, you can’t really be laid back there.

“My dad’s a pretty big guy but as he got older, he has shrunk. In his prime, he stood at 6ft 6ins and played a very different sport in Cameroon – volleyball.

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“That extra half an inch has been mentioned a fair bit by my dad but when I wear shoes I’m 6ft 6ins, so I’m happy with that.

“Dad wanted to take me down the volleyball route, either that or football, but I chose rugby. I wasn’t too bad as a striker – they played me at the back but I wanted to score goals.

“And when I touched a rugby ball first at about 13-years-old, I fell in love with it and I’m very happy with the route I went down.

“Before this season, though, my ambition was just to get a game. Now I’m at Wembley for the first time ever in my life.”

Nsemba is not the only hometown star looking to lift his first piece of silverware with Wigan – only Luke Thompson once wanted nothing to do with the place.

He wanted to be known as a St Helens starlet. So much so, he was put down as living in their rival neighbours, just so he could line up alongside his mates.

Thompson hails from the Ashton-in-Makerfield area but his junior rugby league was played behind enemy lines for Pilkington Recs and Bold Miners.

And once he was good enough for town team level, a bit of creativity was needed from father Mark to make sure he could play alongside his pals.

“I came through the St Helens system but I’d always lived in Wigan,” Thompson explained.

“So my dad put me down as living at my nana’s address, in St Helens, when I was younger so I could play over there alongside all my amateur mates all the time.

“Mum and dad are from St Helens, my grandparents lived in St Helens, but I’d always lived in the Ashton-in-Makerfield area of Wigan.

“However, I was playing for an amateur team in St Helens, Pilks Recs before going to Bold Miners, and while I was supposed to go to the Wigan school trial because I lived there and went to school there, all my team-mates were going to the St Helens trial.

“And I wanted to go with them to play alongside them, so my dad put me down at my nan’s address. That’s what happened.”

Luke Thompson, right, is eyeing glory with Wigan

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Luke Thompson, right, is eyeing glory with WiganCredit: Getty
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