Wigan’s bad luck with injuries can be illustrated with one statistic.
By this stage last year, Shaun Wane hadn’t given a single academy-product a debut (and by the end of the campaign, only one – Oliver Gildart – had figured).
Tomorrow night, he will take this season’s tally to eight – with a third of the season still to go.
Kyle Shelford and Macauley Davies are the latest players to get their chance on the big stage as injuries, and suspensions, bite chunks out of Wane’s first-team.
Micky McIlorum, Anthony Gelling, Tony Clubb, Liam Farrell, Dom Crosby and Joel Tomkins are among those sidelined. Lee Mossop and John Bateman are banned.
Wane also has a clutch of fringe players, including some like Jack Wells with first-team experience, heading to Australia on an England academy tour.
“If you hear the details... it’s horrendous at the moment,” said Wane.
“Clubby, Faz, Micky, Dom, Gells, Joel... there are some good players out.
“It’s just the way it’s panned out.”
Wane would want nothing more than a full squad to select his side from, but he recognised the long-term benefits of having his hand forced by unavailability.
“I’d rather have had a more settled team, rather than give eight debuts,” he said. “But it’s good for the town, good for the club, to have so many young Wigan lads coming through.
“And it’s good for the long-term future of this club.”
So far this season, six academy-products have debuted.
Nick Gregson has featured the most, with 10 appearances, including several out-of-position in the half-back roles when both George Williams and Sean O’Loughlin were injured. Gregson himself is now sidelined.
Forward Joe Bretherton debuted in the 62-0 thrashing at Wakefield and has since played six more times, including the last two matches – impressive victories against Castleford and Catalans.
Half-back Jake Shorrocks also figured off the bench last Saturday, having debuted in the 7-0 win at Widnes last month.
Hooker Luke Waterworth figured once – in a 30-16 win against Hull KR in March – and forward Wells has three appearances to his name.
There has been one outside back breaking through as well, in the form of Jack Higginson.
He figured twice at centre in April and has yet to win, losing 28-16 to Warrington and then in the drubbing at Wakefield.
Shelford and Davies are both forwards, and are set to face Wakefield tomorrow.