Rising Castleford Tigers star Mike McMeeken admits to being frustrated while he has been forced to sit on the sidelines for more than two months after sustaining a broken leg.
The 22-year-old back row forward was tipped for future international honours by head coach Daryl Powell at the start of the season and backed up the promise of his first season at Castleford with some strong and skilful displays in the first half of the 2016 season.
But his campaign was abruptly halted when he suffered the leg fracture at Salford on July 1 and he has not featured in the last eight Tigers games.
The Hampshire-born forward has returned to training and came close to playing at St Helens last week, but is hoping to return to action in this Saturday’s game at Catalans Dragons.
He said; “Hopefully I can catch two games at the end of the season to finish on a high and kick on for next year.
“It’s been bit disappointing to get injury when I did but these things happen and I’ve been loving it ever since I signed here.
“It’d be awesome to get back out there. I’ve been out for 10 weeks now and itching to get back out on the field.
The boys have been doing really well out there and obviously it’s good for them and us as a team, but when you’re sat in the stands you just want to be out there, too, whether winning or losing.
“It is the longest I’ve been out. Last year I picked up a hamstring injury which was six weeks, so this is the longest yet.
“It’s been pretty frustrating personally, but the team’s been going really well as well so you want to be out there enjoying the good times. They were in bit of a bad spell when I got injured so it wasn’t a good time to get injured really.”
McMeeken feels that before his injury he had been developing as a player and was happy with the way things were going personally.
He said: I enjoyed playing rugby at that time. My team-mates were helping me improve as a player and obviously Powelly and the coaching staff, too, so I was happy to be on the field and improving each week.
“This season especially I’ve had a bit more ball in my hands and been able to express my offload a bit more.
“I do like to get my hands on the ball whether that’s feeding it to the winger or centre or just offloading in tackles.”
Tigers head coach Powell is pleased to have McMeeken available again.
“We’ve missed him,” he said. “He’d had a pretty strong season.
“He was one of our stand-out players earlier on in the year until he got his injury so it was disappointing for him to miss out for such a long period of time.
“But to have him back available would be awesome. We certainly need some back so that would be important for us.
Powell still believes McMeeken can go on to play for England.
He added: “He’s big and athletic and his skill set is growing all the time. His mentality is, too.
“I thought he started the season really strongly. He had a little period where he dropped off but was starting to come back.
“One of the difficult things for Mike is that he’s still a young player and when you’re asking young players to play every single week it makes life difficult. We’ve had no opportunity to rotate players this year with our injury problems. It’s been difficult.
“But he’s shown so much for a young player. He’s obviously still looking to improve but, yes, he has a lot of potential.”