WE got back on the pitch with a satisfactory victory over Workington at the weekend in our first preparation game for the new season.

The players have trained extremely hard since early November and it was good to see them finally out on the field.

The early season promises to be severely disrupted with injuries and Covid playing a big part. Normally for our first game we might have close to thirty players, including trialists, but last week the team literally picked itself. It is frustrating in the extreme that we have so many players missing so early, but I think every club is suffering from similar problems.

We have a mixture of Covid cases and injuries but on a positive note it is probably better to get Covid out of the way before the season starts properly. Most of those who have been infected have either suffered very mild or no symptoms and the RFL need to change their guidance on their return to play protocols. A player has to sit out 10 days in isolation when the rest of the country can return to work after 7 days with negative tests on day 6 and 7. Not only that the players are not allowed to play for a further 7 days whilst they prove their fitness.

There was a RFL meeting scheduled on Monday with the club doctors to discuss loosening the protocols, hopefully in line with football who now have seven days and three days, but the meeting was called off for unknown reasons. That is frustrating for all the clubs.

In terms of injuries Shane Toal went down in the warm-up to further disrupt plans and we were forced to play two back rowers in the centre. Dan Toal and Tom Hopkins did great jobs but it’s not a long-term solution.

The initial diagnosis for Shane suggested an operation but by training on Wednesday the injury to his knee had settled down and we are hopeful he will make the start of the season. Declan Hulme needs a painkiller to help see him through the season so he will also miss this weekend as he is booked in for Monday.

Tee Ritson is a victim of the Covid protocols though he is now back training and will feature against North Wales. I’m afraid to say that Gary Wheeler’s symptoms are a lot more severe, and he has been referred to a heart specialist. Gary feels fine but it is better be safer than sorry.

Danny Morrow, Nathan Mossop and Jarrod Sammut should all be fit to return although the latter needs to prove his fitness to the conditioner and doctor. Jake Carter has had a niggling ankle injury but he again should feature on Sunday along with Josh Wood who has recovered from a slight niggle. Jarrad Stack misses out due to work commitments.

Unfortunately, we have lost Jordan Walne who has been referred to a specialist after picking up yet another concussion injury in training. Jordan has had no luck and we need to be very careful with his return given the high-profile nature of concussion injuries and their potential for lasting damage. It is such a shame for the player as he is frustrated and itching to get back.

His brother Adam is also out, suffering from illness having been signed off by his GP. To compound that he also has a long-standing injury that has re-emerged from his Huddersfield days and we probably need to refer him to a specialist to get to the bottom of the problem or get the green light to return.

Despite the problems the players and staff are still very bullish about our prospects. We believe that our squad has quality in depth and can put a smile on the faces of our supporters. We are extremely excited about the season ahead and this weekend’s game against full-time Newcastle will be a good marker of where we are. Our supporters attended in great numbers at the weekend and were very vocal, more again of the same please.