In The First Of A Two Part Feature With Half Back-Come-Hooker, Josh Wood, David Clegg Continues His Series Reviewing the Season Through The Eyes Of Up And Coming First Teamers
A five game run, in the early part of the season, proved to be the highlight of Josh Wood’s 2016 season, owing to a long term injury picked up in the last, down in the South of France, at Catalans Dragons.
Prior to this, he had been without any game time following the pre-season friendlies, other than a one-off outing with link club, North Wales Crusaders.
“It was a case of just working hard at training, and waiting for a chance to come along, which, at last, it did,” he recalls.
The game with the Crusaders proved to be the portender of just that. In an away fixture at one of the more far flung areas of rugby league, Josh turned out for them in an early season match at Newcastle Thunder, in which the visitors ran out 24-20 winners.
“Playing for North Wales was all right, but you really want to play for the team you’ve signed for,” is his considered opinion, “but at the end of the day, it does give you game time. It was also helpful that, coming from Wigan, I knew a few of the players, and that helped me feel part of the team from the start.”
The down side of the encounter, however, was that Josh picked up a nasty facial injury which needed half a dozen stitches in it, but the fact that he immediately returned to the fray made him extremely popular with everyone who had made the trek up to the north-east.
A week’s enforced absence, as required by his head injury, was surprisingly followed by a call up to the Salford first team. An injury to Rob Lui had left the Red Devils somewhat stretched for the double fixture over the Easter weekend, and, for the second of these, at Huddersfield, Josh was called in to replace him.
“It was a big difference going from Championship 1 to Super League,” he remembers. “It was also a good job I had had that match with North Wales, because I had to play through for the full eighty minutes. Without that, I would have really struggled for match fitness in the Huddersfield game. It definitely stood me in good stead.”
It certainly did, as, just before half time, he went on to set up a crucial score, towards that 24-26 victory.
“I got under a high ball from one of Michael Dobson’s kicks, and knocked it back to Gareth O’Brien, who cut through for a try,” is how he remembers it.
“It was a great moment, and it helped me pick up my game, afterwards. Everything went really well from then on.”
It was certainly a good start to his run of consecutive first team games.