PAT Richards is in a reflective mood ahead of his Super League return tomorrow night.
The winger will make his first Super League appearance for Catalans at the DW Stadium, 10 years on from his first game in the competition.
That was against his new club - for Wigan - against the Dragons.
“I thought how ironic that is,” Richards said. “My first game in Super League was against Catalans and now my first game back is against Wigan. It’s funny how things work out.
“In rugby league you can’t really look too far ahead and predict where you are going to be. At the time I was quite happy to go back to the NRL and I really enjoyed my time at the Tigers.
“But an opportunity came up to play for Catalans and live in France and that was something that really appealed to me and my family at this stage of my career.”
It’s funny how things work outPat Richards
Richards, who turns 34 later this month, is remembered with such fondness at Wigan, where he won two Super League titles, two Challenge Cups and the Man of Steel award in 2010, that they named a meeting room after him.
Wigan coach Shaun Wane said: “He’s a great player and an even better man off the field. His family are coming over early and staying with mine.”
Wigan, Grand Final runners-up for the last two years, will be looking to extend their proud unbeaten record at the DW Stadium, where they last tasted defeat in June 2014, while the Dragons are desperately hoping to improve their sorry record on the road.
The Catalans, so strong in Perpignan, won just two away games in 2015 but they are hoping the addition of Richards as well as Richie Myler (Warrington) and Paul Aiton (Leeds) will help them find their feet on English soil.
“A lot of the guys have got a lot of experience of playing in England but it shouldn’t really bother us too much,” Richards said. “It’s still a patch of grass and it’s about doing the job.
“It’s a very professional club and, if we get that travel right, I’m sure we can put in some good performances in England as well.”
Reunions will also be the order of the day in East Yorkshire where prop Scott Taylor will make his debut for Hull against Salford, the team with whom he spent the 2015 season on loan from Wigan.
Taylor looks back fondly on his time at the AJ Bell Stadium, where he was named supporters’ player of the year, but is delighted to join his home-town club.
“It was obviously one of the first fixtures I looked out for and I thought ‘brilliant, bring it on’,” he said.
“I’ve got some good friends there, one of my best mates is Tommy Lee, another Hull lad who is captain this year.
“I really enjoyed my time there and it improved me as a player, but it’s good to come home and be at my team now.”
Hull will also have overseas recruits Mahe Fonua, Sika Manu, Frank Pritchard and Carlos Tuimavave making their first appearances in Super League while Salford could have as many as nine players on debut.
In Friday’s other game, Huddersfield will give Super League debuts to Ryan Hinchcliffe and Sam Rapira as they go to St Helens seeking a third win at Langtree Park in the last three years.