HULL KR’S Shaun Lunt is looking forward to proving his class once more after a life-threatening illness left the former England star fearing he might not live let alone play the sport again.
The experienced hooker was hospitalised for almost three weeks towards the end of last season following a succession of health worries.
Initially told he had bacterial meningitis, doctors then discovered an abscess on his spine too, before he was also diagnosed with the potentially fatal blood infection sepsis.
The road to recovery was a long one but Lunt finally returned to action off the bench in depleted Rovers’ 42-8 loss at former club Huddersfield Giants on Friday.
The 31-year-old is in the squad again tomorrow when Tim Sheens’ side head to Super League leaders St Helens.
“Obviously, it’s been a long, slow process but it’s done and dusted now and it was just great to be back out there last week,” said Cumbrian Lunt.
“There was a point when I wondered if I might not make it back.
“It was petrifying and definitely the hardest time of my life.
“But my wife was unbelievable how she coped with everything – we don’t have a lot of family around here – she was an absolute rock. I wouldn’t be back playing as soon as I am if it had not been for her.
“As soon as I came around (in hospital) I was OK and then it was on to my recovery.”
As soon as I came around (in hospital) I was OK and then it was on to my recovery.Shaun Lunt
The former Leeds Rhinos player continued: “It’s been like my first-ever pre-season, if I’m honest.
“It’s been that hard. I could barely do a press-up when I came in after Christmas and I had to start from scratch.
“But luckily with me being a bit older I do get my fitness back quite quickly once I’m in and able to train and do things.
“It’s been really tough but I got there in the end and am now just looking to the future.
“I really enjoyed it last week. I coped a lot better than I thought I would. I got spotted in the middle – which you expect – but I was pleased and that’s what I needed; a good tough game to get through and see if I was okay.
“Now it’s off to Saints next and you do appreciate every game after something like this.”
Rovers are strengthened by the return of winger Ben Crooks after a broken back while Australian forwards Kane Linnett and Mitch Garbutt are also hoping to be fit again after missing Giants.
Furthermore, half-back Danny McGuire –though not included in the 19-man squad – could be added if he is passed fit later today. Unbeaten Saints may be unchanged after their impressive win at Castleford Tigers.
Hull FC, meanwhile, are without full-back Jamie Shaul (concussion), as well as Ratu Nalongo and Gareth Ellis for tomorrow’s visit of Warrington.
Winger Fetuli Talanoa could make his first appearance of the season after a knee injury while Joe Westerman and Mark Minichiello also return to the squad after missing Sunday’s win at London Broncos.
Warrington are unchanged while Salford Red Devils have signed Krisnan Inu, the former New Zealand centre who was one of the players made redundant when Widnes went into administration last month.