Shaun Wane admits Dom Manfredi’s return to action this weekend has underlined the need of a better reserve competition.
The winger is set to play in a second-string match at St Helens on Saturday – exactly a calendar year since he sustained a serious knee injury which he feared may end his career.
Most top-flight clubs choose not to run reserves, and Wane is thankful he has chance to ease Manfredi back into action after such a lengthy absence.
The loan and dual-registration options are cut-off during the Super-8s phase of the season, and with Manfredi too old for the Under-19s, his only other avenue of playing would be in the first-team.
Wane will tell a meeting of Super League coaches in Salford today they need to push for more reserve fixtures from 2018.
Wane said: “We need more reserve games.
“I’m not involved in other clubs’ finances, but from a performance point of view it’s a no-brainer.
“It’s really important we have more of these games to see these players, play.
“It’s not just for players like Dom who are coming back from injury, it’s for others who are outside the team, too – they need games, they need somewhere to play.”
Saturday’s match at St Helens, likely to also feature Liam Marshall and Jack Wells, is only Wigan’s third reserve fixture this year. They also play Hull FC next month. Wane is confident Manfredi is ready for action after a year on the sidelines.
And, while he admits the 2016 Dream Team winger may be rusty, he is hoping he can thrust himself into the selection frame for the following week.
“He’s training tough, we’re putting him under pressure, his knee is being tested,” said Wane.
“If he kills it on Saturday, if I see good signs, he’s up for selection the week later.
“I’m very pleased to have him back, he’s been in a tough place but he’s over it now. He’s an outstanding player.
“To have him back, and get some pressure on team-selection is great for us.”
Wane, still walking with the help of crutches, admits his own recent hip surgery has given him greater empathy for his injured players.
“This has tortured me,” he said. “It’s given me a bit of a reality check about what I say to the players about being professional and dealing with it.”
Phil Bentham will referee Wigan’s home game with Huddersfield on Friday.