GARETH Hock will miss the start of the new Super League season.
The England Test forward has been ruled out for at least six matches as he recovers from an off-season shoulder operation.
His setback emerged as fresh rumours over Hock’s future gathered pace.
Coach Shaun Wane declined to comment on the intensifying speculation - but confirmed the 29-year-old is still a member of his playing squad.
Hock was linked with a move away from his hometown club at the end of last season.
He was wanted by Australian club Parramatta and it is understood the player was angling for a switch to the NRL, but the transfer broke down.Hock went under the knife following England’s autumn series win over France and Wales, which forced him to miss the pre-season training camp in Florida.
His surgery and pending lay-off had been kept under wraps, but Wane revealed last night the forward will miss the
opening stages of the new campaign.
Wane said: “Gareth will be out for at least six weeks of the new season.
“We’re fortunate that we have a number of talented second-rowers in the squad.”
Liam Farrell had already taken Hock’s ‘starting’ number 12 in the squad, suggesting he had leapfrogged him in the pecking order.
And with Harrison Hansen on the opposite flank and Chris Tuson, Rhodri Lloyd and centre-turned-forward Anthony Gelling all battling for spots, Wane has an abundance of talent at his disposal.
Hock has experienced a rollercoaster since returning from a two-year doping suspension in 2011.
He missed out on a place in the Wembley team and missed the end of the season after being banned for gouging.
But Wane got the best out of the academy-product as they stormed to the top of the table in 2012, culminating in Hock featuring in the Super League DreamTeam.
His form dipped towards the end of the campaign, however, and he had mixed-fortunes for England while speculation over a move away was simmering.