THERE are few more frustrating situations for a player than being fit but unable to play, especially if that is down to suspension.
That is why Hull FC’s Liam Watts is looking forward so much to this afternoon’s game at struggling Warrington Wolves; the powerful prop has missed a month of action due to a four-match ban.
Admittedly, a knee injury would have kept him out for at least two of those fixtures.
However, given the season was also just a couple of games old when he was hauled before the disciplinary for a dangerous throw on Catalans Dragons’ Jason Baitieri, and he felt the length of ban was harsh, you can understand why he’s been so irritated.
Watts, who was also sin-binned and fined £300 for the foul that, in part, led to FC’s 16-14 defeat, is desperate to start making up for lost time. The former Hull KR forward told The Yorkshire Post: “I had a little run out for the reserves on Saturday as my ban was up last Friday.
“It was just nice to get some minutes under my belt going into this week, a nice little stepping stone. I didn’t want to go into Warrington and be a bit off timing wise so it certainly served its purpose.
But you take it as it comes and I’ve served my punishment. Hopefully there’s no more.Hull FC’s Liam Watts.
“I’m certainly looking forward to getting back out there. These last four weeks have probably been the worst four weeks of my life rugby-wise.
“When you’re fit and ready to go and sat on the touchline watching it is hard to watch sometimes.
“But luckily the boys have been doing a decent job and picking up some good results which is obviously really pleasing.”
That is an understatement; the Challenge Cup holders have won all four games in his absence, including a 22-20 victory at champions Wigan Warriors last week to underline their title hopes.
But what about that tackle? As soon as he swept Baitieri’s standing leg did he realise he was in trouble?
Featherstone-born Watts, 26, insisted: “No, not really. Personally, I didn’t think it was that bad.
“Obviously I don’t go there in meaning to hurt people. It’s a simple tackle and just a leg lift.
“Obviously he fell into a position I was in no control of; I picked his legs up and the two lads Danny Washbrook and Scott Taylor, obviously with the size of those two, there is only one way he was going to go. It was just one of those things. I think it looked a lot worse than it actually was.
“They said I went for the leg swipe which I did but his legs weren’t up in the air at the time.
“I’ve seen a lot worse in these last couple of weeks than mine. The (Salford) Lama Tasi one against Wakefield I think was a lot worse and he was put in a lot worse position than I did.
“But you take it as it comes and I’ve served my punishment. Hopefully there’s no more.”
With regards today’s game, it is a surreal situation; wretched Warrington, Wembley and Old Trafford finalists just a few months ago, are now bottom, pointless and desperately hoping to avoid a seventh straight Super League defeat this term.
“They are in a bit of strife at the minute,” admitted Watts.
“But the team’s not changed from last year so it’s just a confidence thing; they’re just a pass away from things coming off and it being disastrous for the other team.
“There’s a lot of quality in there – my mate Westy (ex-Hull loose forward Joe Westerman) is playing really well, and there’s Daz Clark too, so they’re not far away.
“They will get someone and we have to make sure we’re on and it’s not us this week.”
One of the reasons Hull have started so well is the impact of Albert Kelly, the electric Australian half-back who joined from Hull KR in the off-season and has scored seven tries in the four games alone Watts has missed.
“Alby’s an off-the-cuff player,” he explained.
“We have structure in place but when he gets the ball you’ve just got to click on and be aware of what he’s wanting to do and how he wants to play.
“He’s really found his feet now. Coming in pre-season we were just getting to know him but he’s really settled in well now and is getting on well with everyone.
“He’s a top bloke. With him coming across the river, too, sometimes it’s hard to settle in. I had to settle in pretty quickly mid-season but he’s doing really well and long may it continue.”