PAT Richards may make his long-awaited return to action with a game for the Under-20s this weekend.
And that is almost certainly going to thrust the Man of Steel back into the frame for the Super League visit of Catalan the following week – his first top-level game since last October’s Grand Final triumph.
Coach Michael Maguire said: “There’s a fair chance Pat may play in the Under-20s this week.
“He’s training extremely well and it’ll be great to have him back.”
Explaining the decision to ease him back into action, he continued: “In first-grade you don’t get too many chances to rotate the players like you can in the Under-20s, so we may let him have a hit-out and help him get his confidence back, and fingers crossed he should be okay for the Catalan game.
“He’s training extremely well and it’ll be great to have him back.
“Pat’s great to have around the team and he gives us an extra dimension. Many don’t recognise the work he does bringing the ball back off our own tryline, he’s like another front-rower, then at the other end of the pitch he’s got the extra height for the kick finishes which adds a lot, as we saw from (Warrington’s two-try winger) Joel Monaghan at the weekend.”
The news of Richards’ pending return will delight fans.
The 29-year-old was Super League’s top try- and goal-scorer last season and won a haul of personal achievements.
He injured his Achilles in the Grand Final victory, ruling him out of the opening few weeks of this campaign, but has already been testing out the tendon with plenty of goal-kicking training.
“He’s doing a lot of practice now so when he does come back we’ll have some fair competition there for the goal-kicking,” added Maguire.
“With his record, if he kicks anywhere near like he did last year he’ll get the job again.”
Darren Fletcher’s Under-20s face Leeds at Stanningley amateur club this Saturday, kick-off 12pm.
Meanwhile, Maguire reported that prop Eamon O’Carroll’s surgery to save his career was a qualified success. The compact front-rower had a frustrating wait while Wigan coaches searched the world for a surgeon to best advise them on a course of treatment for his rare pubic bone problem.
Maguire is hopeful O’Carroll may play again this year.
He said: “It’s good news on Eamon. He had an operation and came through it really positively.
“I’m not 100 per cent sure about a time-frame, we’ll need to speak to the surgeons later on about that, but if we get a chance to play him this year then we will be doing.
“It’s always tough for any player to be out for a length of time, but Eamon’s a great kid and he’s been very positive, and now he’s got a chance to get himself right.