VETERAN Castleford Tigers forward Paul Jackson could play his first senior game in more than 10 months tomorrow after finally emerging from a horrendous injury spell.
The vastly-experienced prop is ready to face Hull KR in his club’s Super League match at Craven Park and take out all the frustrations that have built up since last summer.
Jackson has endured a torrid time since suffering a problem in his left hand which almost led to an amputation of his ring finger.
Continuous dislocations of it led to it being pinned but the wires then wore away the knuckle, which was eventually taken out.
Surgeons then pinned the bone with some metal in a complicated fusion but it has taken four operations to finally cure the problem although his knuckle still does not bend.
Jackson, in his second spell at Castleford after previously playing for Wakefield Trinity and Huddersfield Giants, has not played since delivering a brilliant performance in the heartbreaking Challenge Cup semi-final extra-time loss to Leeds Rhinos on August 7.
Castleford captain Danny Orr revealed to the Yorkshire Post: “He had the first op the week before that cup semi and was told not to play.
“But Jacko put his hand up and did.
“He’d had some metal pins inserted but they got bent in that game against Leeds and he’s just had problem after problem ever since.
“It’s been a long road for him. He’s had numerous ops on his hand and it’s been such a long time since he last played.
“But he has been training with us for a while now and played in the Under -20s last week where he looked really, really strong.
“He’s running around now like a big kid in a sweet shop and it’s like he’s never been away.
“Jacko does look so strong in training and it’ll be good to have him back at Rovers as he’s a great forward who adds a lot to us.”
If selected, Castleford will need the 33-year-old’s experience and ballast more than ever as they try to overcome their East Yorkshire opponents without any recognised half-backs.
Scrum-half Orr has failed to shrug off an injury problem, England stand-off Rangi Chase serves the last game of his three-match ban and Ryan McGoldrick, who would ordinarily fill in, is also suspended.
Considering Rovers have one of the Super League’s leading half-back pairings in Australian duo Michael Dobson and Blake Green, whoever takes the problem role is going to have a sizeable task.
“It’s going to be tough but it’s tough anyway even if we were all in there,” added Orr.
“For those that are selected it will be hard but we’re pretty confident and training has gone really well this week.
“We had the week off before and the lads have come back and looked really sharp.”
Hooker Adam Milner is likely to switch to scrum-half with back-row Brett Ferres perhaps operating at stand-off although coach Ian Millward has drafted youngster Ryan Brierly – on a dual-registration with Championship Leigh – in for a potential Super League debut.
But the old adage about a half-back only being as good as the pack in front of him has never rung truer and Orr knows whoever plays will need the forwards to perform.
He takes plenty of positives, though, from their earlier meeting this season.
“We played Rovers not so long ago and got a good win down here,” he said, recalling March’s 34-30 success.
“The forwards that night were pretty good – in fact it was probably one of our best performances all year – against a real big Hull KR pack.
“Rovers have some quality forwards but we got on top of them then and if we can do it again we’ll give ourselves – and whoever’s in the halves – a chance.
“If not, it’s going to be a hard game over there.”
Eleventh-placed Castleford need a victory to stay in touch with Rovers who, themselves, are on the play-off fringes.
Orr, meanwhile, is nearing a return himself.
“I was close to playing but we just didn’t want to risk it and make it any worse for the next few games if I got a bang,” added the ex-Great Britain international, who turned 34 on Thursday.
“Basil’s decided to give me another week so I should be alright for Magic Weekend.
“I’ll be back then against Wakefield as will Rangi so hopefully Basil will have a bigger squad to choose from.”