MICHAEL Maguire promised Stuart Fielden will be back ‘bigger, better and stronger than ever’ after the Warriors prop was ruled out for the rest of the season with a ripped pectoral muscle.
Fielden has made only one appearance this year – at Bradford in February – due to knee surgery, but had been earmarked to make his long-awaited return at Hull tomorrow night.
However, a training ground mishap on Tuesday has brought his 2011 campaign to an abrupt halt, and Maguire admits it’s rotten luck for the former Test ace.
“Stuey was due to play this weekend, but the injury has put him out for the rest of the year,” Maguire said.
“It’s a massive blow for everyone, because we all know what a great job he did for us last year and we know exactly what he brings to the table.
“He’ll be missed, but he’ll continue to be a big presence about the place and it gives an opportunity to someone else to take advantage of.
“And if I know Stuey, he’ll be back bigger and stronger than ever in time for next year.”
Fielden had been champing at the bit for a number of weeks to bolster the Warriors’ end-of-season charge, and Maguire admits the player’s desperation to get back in the fold may have proved his undoing.
“The frustrating thing is he was looking so good in training - the fittest and strongest he’d been all year,” the Wigan coach revealed.
“He’s been fighting fit for quite some time, and just hasn’t been able to get over the line in terms of selection.
“But being the professional he is, Stuey is always training at the limit all the time - and he’s probably pushed himself just a little bit too hard and paid the penalty.
“The kind of guy he is, though, he never stops trying to be the best he can be, and trying to improve himself all the time - and that’s what makes him the top player he is.”
Although a hammer blow for the player, who turns 32 in September, Maguire reckons Fielden could yet feel the benefit of his long lay-off further down the track.
“Stuey is obviously very disappointed, but he’s had one incredible career, and he knows this is just the latest challenge that has been put in front of him,” Maguire added.
“The way he is and the way he looks after himself, he could probably play for a few more years yet. You never know, it could even prolong his career, with one year’s less wear-and-tear on the body, so there could be a positive in all of this.”