Michael Shenton will relaunch his international career as a “more rounded player” when England get the 2014 Four Nations Series under way this weekend.
The Castleford centre wondered if he would ever get the chance to play on the international stage again after his last tour was cruelly cut short by an ankle-ligament injury sustained in the opening game.
Shenton was forced to fly home early from the 2010 Four Nations Series in New Zealand and he missed the following year’s tournament with an elbow injury sustained in the Grand Final.
That came during a largely forgettable spell at St Helens and it took a return to his home-town club to get his career back on track.
The Tigers skipper forced his way back into the thoughts of England coach Steve McNamara after rediscovering his sparkling form during his club’s landmark season in which they reached Wembley and went within one game of topping the league for the first time in their 88-year history.
However, Shenton, now 28, will be forgiven if his mind wonders back to the events of four years ago when he runs out for his 10th cap against Samoa at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.
“It came to an end pretty bad,” he recalled. “I thought it was going all right out there as well.
“We played the Maoris in the first weekend, then the Kiwis down in Wellington and I did it there. It was not a good feeling to be honest.
“Once your chance like that goes, you wonder if you’ll ever get another. The next year I did my elbow in the Grand Final and there are some really good young players coming through in the position I’m playing so it’s been a long road back.”
Playing for England was the last thing on Shenton’s mind back in February as he and coach Daryl Powell set about trying to prove the critics wrong for writing off Castleford’s Super League play-off chances but before long he found himself being asked about his international prospects.
“I had so much on with the club, I didn’t think about it too much at the start of the year,” he said. “It was totally at the back of my mind but I spoke to Daryl about it and he said it should be a goal of mine.
“He worked on my game and it paid off. It was awesome to get back in the training squad in mid-season and then I got told about six weeks ago when they were going to name the squad.
“Leading into that week, our season had already been finished and I was pretty nervous. I was thinking ‘I’d love to go on tour’ and I would have been really disappointed not to get in. The elation and relief was pretty special. It’s great to get another crack at it.
“I think I’m a better player all-round to be honest. I’ve never enjoyed my rugby as much as I have this season, I’ve really had a great time and played in a team that suits the way I like to play.
“I have a lot more responsibility and I think that helped. Also, I’ve got a better understanding of the game as I’ve got older.
“I think I’m a more well-rounded player to tour than I was last time.”
Shenton ousted Huddersfield’s Leroy Cudjoe from England’s World Cup squad and got the nod for the left-centre berth for Saturday’s opening game ahead of Wigan’s Dan Sarginson.
McNamara said: “ I think everyone is pleased for Michael.
“Michael didn’t lose his way as such but it didn’t quite happen for him when he moved from Castleford to St Helens. It was a bold move to go back to Castleford and re-invent himself. It takes a special player to overcome adversity.”