Ian Kirke admits it will feel strange when he lines up for his Wakefield Trinity Wildcats debut on Boxing Day to face former club Leeds Rhinos.
The Tetley’s Festive Challenge (11.30am) will be Kirke’s first appearance for Wakefield after nine successful seasons with Rhinos.
Kirke joined the Headingley club in 2006 and played in five Super League Grand Final wins, as well as this year’s Challenge Cup triumph.
“It will be a bit strange playing a friendly against my old team,” Kirke admitted.
“In the league it wouldn’t bother me, it would just be another game.
“Playing a friendly – or what’s billed as a friendly – will be a bit more strange, but I am sure I’ll be all right once we start playing.”
Kirke admits he is not a big fan of the Boxing Day game, which comes six weeks before the start of the competitive season.
Celebrating his birthday – his 33rd this year – the day after Christmas, he would usually prefer not to have a fixture, but with new colleagues, coaches and fans to impress, he admitted he is keen to get back out on the field.
“The older you get, the less you like training without a game at the end of it,” conceded Kirke, who made 214 appearances for the Rhinos after joining them from lower division York City Knights.
“You’d rather be playing games, so it’s good to have one coming up. That’s what we do, we are rugby players, not rugby trainers.”
Kirke has been training with Wildcats since joining them at the start of November.
“Obviously everything is a bit different,” he observed.
“It was never particularly my expectation I would be leaving this year, so to do it kind of last minute was a bit of a shock. But they have all been pretty welcoming and that has made it easier for me.
“Training’s been not too bad and we are looking fairly good.
“The way they play is quite different to the Leeds way so it has probably been a bit more difficult for me than the other guys who are used to the system, but I am getting there slowly.”
Wildcats went on camp to Wales earlier this month and Kirke said that helped the settling-in process.
“There was a good 3g indoor pitch,” he said.
“Some of the other players probably didn’t benefit as much as I did; because we were indoors, you could hear what people were saying and it was a chance to learn new calls.
“It is always good to have more time together, but everyone gets on really well together and the team spirit is really good.”