SHAUN Wane will spend the next few days assessing his hooker options in wake of Micky McIlorum’s horror injury.
The England No.9 will undergo an operation on a broken and dislocated ankle this week.
A detailed recovery time-frame may only emerge after surgery but other players who have suffered similar injuries have been sidelined for several months, suggesting McIlorum could be out for the rest of the season.
He was stretchered from the pitch early into the 42-12 defeat to Brisbane on Saturday night. His absence will leave a huge void in the Warriors side.
The defeat came at a cost with forward Willie Isa also injuring his knee, ruling him out for around six weeks. Matty Smith didn’t finish the game but should be fit to play this week.
Wane must now draw up contingencies, and he doesn’t have much time - their next game is Thursday’s Super League match against Salford.
In the short-term, Sam Powell is likely to be promoted from the bench and start at hooker.
But it would be a big ask for him to play 80 minutes in the key position week in, week out - and Wigan’s back-up options are limited.
Luke Waterworth, brother-in-law of ex-Warrior
Bob Beswick, would be the next in line but he is out with an ankle strain and is not expected to be fit until early April.
Another potential candidate, Under-19s half Jake Shorrocks, is also currently injured.
That leaves Josh Ganson – son of former referee Steve – as the next specialist hooker in the frame, and while he impressed in pre-season, he only turned 18 last Friday.
Back-rower Nick Gregson, who has yet to make his debut, played at halfback in pre-season and could be an option.
Instead, Wane could rotate his match-day squad so Sean O’Loughlin or John Bateman fill the dummy-
half role when Powell is rested.
Another alternative, of course, would be recruiting a hooker from elsewhere – even if it is on loan until Waterworth or Shorrocks, both untested at first-team level, are fit and available.
Prop Tony Clubb says McIlorum will be a huge loss.
“He’s a big player for us and one of our leaders, and we’re going to lose him for a long time,” said Clubb.
“Sammy Powell has done a good job for us, and we have a few young lads who will come good, but it’s a big loss.
“What happened to him, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, but that’s sport - that’s our sport - and everyone will support Micky.”