Fielden to face Saints
Former Great Britain prop Stuart Fielden will get the chance to play for a new Wigan Warriors contract when he makes his Stobart Super League comeback in Friday’s derby with St Helens at the DW Stadium.
The former Bradford Bulls favourite has played just one game in two seasons - coincidentally at Odsal in February 2011 - after being sidelined initially by knee surgery and more recently a torn pectoral muscle.
Out of contract at the end of the year, Fielden will face Saints a week before his 33rd birthday with one last chance to catch the eye of coach Shaun Wane as he weighs up whether or not to re-sign the former international for 2013.
“The ball is in his court,” said Wane, who will also welcome back front-row forward Gil Dudson, who has been out with an ankle ligament injury for the last three months.
“I’m going to have a look at them this week and make sure they are good to go in the play-offs.
“Before he got injured, Gil Dudson was probably the form front rower in the competition and he would never have got out of our team if he had stayed fit.
“I can’t remember what Stuart’s form was like the last time he played because it has been so long but he’s fit and strong and he’s been a great servant before he got injured so I’ve lot of respect for him.
“I am excited about how they will go this week.”
Fielden, who cost a record £440,000 when he joined the Warriors from Bradford in 2006, emerged from a lean spell to recapture his form in time to make a return to the international scene with England on the 2010 Four Nations Series trip down under.
However, he has played less than 30 minutes of Super League since then and Wane is full of admiration for the player’s determination and perseverance during his lengthy lay-off.
He also reveals Fielden, who made his comeback with Wigan’s Under-20s last month, became depressed during his enforced time off but believes he can re-launch his Super League career and has not ruled out that being with Wigan.
“What he’s done has been unbelievable, to turn up and train and keep that level of enthusiasm,” Wane said.
“It’s been horrendous, two years of not playing, I can’t think of anything worse. I’m glad I can give him a go.
“He’s spent a lot of time with our psychologist and he does look after himself. He’s the one of the best professionals I’ve worked with, with regards to looking after his body.
“And he’s not been through the rigours of Super League for two years so he’s fresh and he’s in great nick.
“If you look at him now, he’s absolutely huge and nobody can wrestle him out on the field.
“He’s under pressure because he needs to perform this week but he’s played in some big games so this week won’t be stressful for him.
“I just want him to run hard and defend strong. It’s quite straight forward what front rower’s jobs are.
“If he goes well in the play-offs, then we can sit down and have a chat. He’s a professional sportsman, he’s playing for his living.”
Wane is also set to give scrum-half Thomas Leuluai his first start for three months after he made his comeback from a broken leg as a substitute in last Sunday’s 42-36 win at Hull KR.
The Warriors will be presented with the league leaders’ shield after Friday’s game.