TONIGHT’S VISIT of Leeds Rhinos will bring Featherstone Rovers half-back/hooker Matty Wildie full circle.
In the same game last year – on January 31 – Wildie suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury which ended his season before it had even begun.
Wildie had joined Rovers from Dewsbury Rams the previous autumn and his year-long injury was a huge setback to both the player and his new club.
But Wildie made his return in Rovers’ Boxing Day win at Halifax and has been ever-present throughout their pre-season campaign, forming an impressive half-back combination with stand-off Anthony Thackeray.
The events of last year will be in the back of his mind tonight, but Wildie, 26, sees it as a hurdle to overcome before he can focus fully on a big year with Rovers.
The former Wakefield Trinity man admitted: “Hopefully I can get this one out of the way, then the injury is behind me.”
Wildie, who underwent a knee reconstruction after suffering anterior cruciate ligament damage in Rovers’ 32-16 victory a year ago, remembers the past 12 months as a “bit of a lonely place for me at times”.
He said: “It was tough. At the start there was only me who was injured.
“I didn’t go in [for the operation] for a couple of weeks and you’re stuck at home with your leg up and you can’t do much.
“It’s frustrating. After that Scott Turner did his knee and it was good to have somebody there, to try and push each other along.
“I think both of us are happy with how things are going now and we’ve both turned out stronger people for it.”
Turner is also now back in action and has shown good form in pre-season matches.
“Jon [Rovers coach Jon Sharp] has shown faith in me and instilled confidence as well and that’s showing in how I’m going at the moment,” Wildie added.
“Fingers crossed I can have a good year.”
Wildie’s return has added to a stronger Rovers squad who are aiming to improve on last year’s fourth-place finish in the Kingstone Press Championship.
“Pre-season’s going really well,” Wildie said.
“We’ve been in an extra day a week, which is quite tough and challenging, but it is paying off at the moment because we are getting results.
“Performances are picking up, the lads are feeling confident and we are really looking forward to the season starting.”
Wildie reckons last Sunday’s 28-20 win over Wakefield Trinity was an indication of how well Rovers could do this year.
“We’ve had four wins, but we are more focused on our performances than results at the moment,” he said.
“But it is good to get a win as well and Wakefield sent a strong team. No disrespect to Hunslet and York, but we needed that challenge.
“Wakefield definitely gave us that and Leeds will as well. We’ve made a few signings this year and some of the older lads have moved on.
“It is a fresh start for us as a team.
“We’ve got Jay Walton, Frankie Mariano, Keal Carlile, Michael Knowles and Richard Moore so we’ve got a bit more size and skill as well.
“Leeds will be a good test and hopefully we can put in another good performance.”