The Liam Farrell column: '˜Returning players bring so much'
I think I under-estimated how good it is to have a near full-strength team again.
Having Sam, Batty, Gells and the other lads out training again is great. We looked quite sharp.
Lockers and Sam Powell have obviously played recently, but the other three who are back this week have been out for large spells – Sam hasn’t played at all this year – and it’ll be great to have them back in the side.
They all add different things, but they’re just as important.
Gells is big out of yardage, we all know what Batty brings, and Sam has been a special player for years.
At his best he’s pretty unstoppable and, while he may need some time to settle back in, he’s got other things in his game which improve us – not least his competitive edge.
It’s not only been good to have them back in training, it’s been good to get some proper training sessions in!
With five games in 20 days, it didn’t leave much space in between to train.
We’ve been doing a lot of recovery, and the odd light sessions, but it’s been hard to fix things up without getting onto the pitch and practising.
It’s been good to have a decent turnaround, we’ve had time to get on the pitch and get some combinations going – and now we’ve got to take that into Saturday’s game at Warrington.
Neither of us are in good form.
Since we met at the Magic Weekend, neither of us have won.
We’ve had some good games with Warrington, and we’re preparing for another tough one at their place.
I know they’ve not been in great form either, but they’ve quality players everywhere – if you give them any chance of playing, they can cause you problems.
For the last four weeks, our defence has been our big problem, and that was the case at Leigh last Thursday.
Missing a game through injury is tough. Watching when you’re fit, but banned? Much tougher.
And to see us concede 50 at Leigh was hard to take.
But the areas we need to fix are only small areas – such as what we do between making contact and going to floor – and, once we get back to the way we usually defend, it will give us more energy to attack better.
One positive from the game was seeing Oli Gildart back out there.
He’s still only 20 and it’s exciting to see where he can go, because he’s played in two Grand Finals and a World Club Challenge already, and it’s good to have him alongside me on the left side. I’m really looking forward to Saturday’s match.
I’ve always said that the Grand Final is my favourite of the two finals, but because we’ve not been to Wembley since 2013, I’m really keen to get back there and win it.
But I’m not looking beyond Saturday.
Elsewhere, there are a couple of quarter-finals which are tough to call.
You’d think Leeds will get the job done against Featherstone, but the others should be close affairs.
Salford and Wakefield are two teams who not many people expected to be in the four. It’s hard to split them, but the absence of David Fifita from the Wakefield side makes me think Salford may edge it – Fifita caused us trouble.
And on Sunday, there’s another interesting tie betweenHull FC and Castleford.
Cas’ have been really good all year and many will tip them, but I’m going for Hull. They have found some form, they’re at home, they’re the current holders, and I think they’ll have some players back.