Here's why Covid shutdown has put years on Hunslet skipper Duane Straugheir's career
The coronavirus pandemic has convinced Hunslet captain Duane Straugheir he is not ready to retire just yet.
Saturday will mark a year since Hunslet last played, in a Challenge Cup fifth-round loss at Featherstone Rovers.
The Parksiders declined to enter the knockout competition this time and their season does not begin until May 9, when Workington Town visit South Leeds Stadium in Betfred League One.
Pre-season training began in December, but was put on hold the following month when the latest national lockdown was announced.
It has now resumed, but while Super League and Championship clubs are starting to play pre-season games ahead of competitive fixtures this month, Hunslet’s long wait for a game continues.
“I can’t explain it other than it has given me a taste of what it’ll be like to retire,” Straugheir, 31, said of the past year without rugby.
“It is a scary thought, because I don’t know how I will handle retirement.
“You have these doubts ‘do I still want to be playing rugby, am I all right at this?’.
“But now I have not done it for that long, I’m like ‘I am going to play until I am 40 if I can’.”
Hunslet were top of League One, having won their opening two matches, when the competition was halted last year.
Most of that squad is still together and the club are targeting promotion to the Championship.
The league leaders will go up automatically, with teams from second to sixth playing off to decide the second promotion place.
The table will be finalised on win percentage and teams must completye 70 per cent of their scheduled fixtures to qualify for the play-offs.
Straugheir said enthusiasm in the Hunslet camp will be high when the season finally begins.
“I have missed it that much,” he added.
“It [the lay-off] has had its ups and its downs but, hopefully, it has put a few years on my career and it will have for a few other players.
“We are just excited to get back and get back out there.”
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