Shaun Wane says it would have been a “disaster” for fit-again Dom Manfredi if Wigan didn’t have a reserve team.
The winger made his long-awaited comeback last Saturday, scoring two tries in 40-minutes of action for the second team.
And after emerging unscathed - and his confidence buoyed - Manfredi is now chasing his first Super League game, more than two years since he wrecked his knee in a match at Castleford.
Wigan are one of only two top-flight clubs, with Wakefield, who are running reserve sides this year. And Wane admits Manfredi would have struggled to play this season otherwise, given the importance of the Super-8s matches and the fact dual-registration is closed at this time.
“He’d have been struggling, it would have been a disaster,” said Wane.
“I love our game – but we’re not that popular we can stop lads from playing, and that’s what we’re doing.
“It would have been a crying shame if he’d been fit and couldn’t play anywhere.”
As it was, he faced Halifax’s reserves at Orrell - watched by many familiar faces.
“All the first-team came down to watch him, because he’s a very popular member of the squad,” said Wane. “Dom did a good job, he’s ready to play. His next step is playing for the first-team so he’s doing extras and I’m hoping he will be pushing for the Saints game.”
Manfredi needed surgery after the serious knee injury in 2016 - a year in which he was named in the Super League Dream Team.
He suffered another setback when he attempted a comeback last year, requiring further surgery which kept him sidelined until last weekend.
“I’ve known these lads for many years and you end up feeling like their your sons, and Dom has been in some tough places,” added Wane. “He’s a nice kid from a good family and all the lads were devastated when he had these setbacks. And that’s why all the lads went down to watch him play, it’s how much he means to them.”
Prop Ollie Partington is set to keep his place in the Wigan team for tomorrow’s clash at Catalans following his strong debut last week.
The former Orrell St James junior caught Shaun Wane’s eye in the 24-22 win against Castleford and has kept his place in the 19-man squad.
“ liked what he did, he had some whack in him, his fitness was good – which is often a question mark with these kids when they step up – but I was more than happy with him,” said Wane.
In the only change to the 19-man squad, Craig Mullen has replaced Josh Woods.
Chris Hankinson (eye), Sean O’Loughlin (leg), Taulima Tautai (suspension), Oliver Gildart (thumb), Liam Farrell (shoulder), Liam Paisley (ankle) and long-term absentee Joe Burgess (knee) miss out for Wigan, as well as Manfredi.
Catalans have recalled many of the big-guns rested last week.
Brayden Wiliame, Fouad Yaha, Sam Moa, Louis Anderson, Julian Bousquet, Lewis Tierney, Michael McIlorum, Benjamin Jullien, Tony Gigot, Josh Drinkwater and Kenny Edwards are back in the squad.
Rémi Casty, Ben Garcia, Mickael Simon and David Mead will be rested this weekend ahead of their Challenge Cup Final appearance the following Saturday at Wembley..
Kick-off is 5.30pm UK time, 6.30pm French time, and the game is live on Sky. The Wigan squad head out today and will return on Monday.
Wigan’s 19-man squad: John Bateman, Tony Clubb, Tom Davies, Morgan Escare, Ben Flower, Joe Greenwood, Gabe Hamlin, Willie Isa, Samy Kibula, Tommy Leuluai, Liam Marshall, Craig Mullen, Romain Navarrete, Oliver Partington, Sam Powell, Dan Sarginson, Ryan Sutton, Sam Tomkins, George Williams.
Catalans’ 19-man squad: Iain Thornley, Brayden Williams, Fouad Yaha, Samisoni Langi, Sam Moa, Louis Anderson, Julian Bousquet, Jason Baitieri, Micky McIlorum, Lewis Tierney, Benjamin Jullien, Lucas Albert, Antoni Maria, Alrix Da Costa, Lambert Belmas, Tony Gigot, Mickael Goudemand, Josh Drinkwater, Kenny Edwards.