WIGAN players hailed Gareth Hock after he made his high-profile return in Saturday’s 46-12 thrashing of high-flying Huddersfield.
The second-rower only played 30 minutes during two spells, but did enough in that time to impress his team-mates.
And they are backing the former England international to provide the side a boost for the rest of the season.
Man of Steel Pat Richards said: “Gaz really gave us a lift when he came on.
“He’s going to be a really good asset for us.
“It was great to see him back. He’s done his time now and he’s only going to get better and better.”
Sam Tomkins, the man of the match for a stunning hat-trick, said: “Gaz is a big human and he scatters people when he runs at them and it’s great to have someone like that in the team.
“It’s been a long two years for him and I think he’s realised what he’s missed out on.
“Now he’s on the straight and narrow and can do a good job for us.”
Hock came off the bench in the 24th minute to a great reception from the fans. Coach Michael Maguire protected him from the waiting journalists afterwards, but his team-mates were evidently pleased to welcome him back into the fold.
Centre George Carmont said: “He was a big boost off the bench and it’s great to have him back in the side.
“I really enjoyed playing alongside him before his ban, he created a lot of opportunities for me on that left-side, and the more games he plays the better he’s going to get.
“He’s been working hard in training, and really jumped on board what Madge has been doing here.”
Saturday night’s victory closed the gap on leaders Warrington to one point, and even if both sides win their games this weekend, Wigan will have a chance to leapfrog the Wolves next Wednesday when they play their game-in-hand against Castleford.
The win over Huddersfield followed a commanding display against St Helens a week earlier.
Tomkins added: “Last year we were consistent and that’s probably what won us the title, and that’s what we want this year.
“We don’t want to smash a team and then have a week off, because we train hard every day and we want to perform well every week.”