GARETH Hock’s chances of making an instant return to the first-team following the end of his suspension escalated last night when Chris Tuson was banned for one-match.
Coach Michael Maguire admitted Tuson’s unavailability has thrust Hock closer to selection.
Hock’s two-year doping ban ends tomorrow, when Maguire is expected to name him in the provisional 19-man squad for Saturday’s game against Huddersfield Giants.
But over the following 48 hours he must decide whether to plunge Hock straight back into the action against the second-placed Giants – under the glare of the Sky Sports cameras and a near-20,000 crowd – or ease him back into action.
Maguire also has Liam Farrell waiting in the wings.
Tuson was ruled out after being found guilty by the RFL’s disciplinary committee of making dangerous contact with St Helens forward Jon Wilkin during the champions’ 32-10 Super League victory at the Stobart Stadium last Friday. He was also fined £300.
After being out of the game for so long, Hock would normally make his return through the club’s Under-20s team, but their fixtures are on hold because of the 9s tournament.
“He’ll be part of the squad,” said Maguire, admitting Tuson’s ban works in Hock’s favour.
“Whether we go with him or not, we’ll decide later in the week. We’ll see how everybody else pulls up. He’s close, there’s a chance but we’re also aware that the team performed pretty well on the weekend. It’s about whether we’re going to roll that squad around.
“It’s a bit of a funny situation with no 20s team, so you can’t blood him and I wouldn’t want to put him out on loan.
“We all know what Gaz can do, it’s just a matter of giving him an opportunity, whether that’s this week or the next couple of weeks.”
Maguire has been running with Hock, 27, at both prop and second-row in training and Maguire has been impressed with his work so far – and reckons his best is ahead of him.
“I would say it is,” he said. “I’m sure, in time, he’s going to be a massive addition for us.
“He’s done everything asked of him, he’s hungry to get back.
“He’s been with us for the last couple of months and worked extremely hard, with extra sessions and all the little things to learn the new style and the way we’re playing.”