As Josh Griffin hobbled away from St James’ Park with the help of crutches on Sunday night, Hull FC’s Kirk Yeaman realised his own unexpected playing return was set to last a little longer.
The legendary centre had retired in 2016 but – 20 months after his last game – answered Lee Radford’s desperate SOS amid a crippling injury list.
He duly played the entire 80 minutes of their 34-22 derby win over Hull KR at Magic Weekend and, save for one slightly embarrassing attempted pass, certainly did not look out of place.
It was a dream scenario for Yeaman who had been working on the club’s strength and conditioning staff (not just making coffee) ever since hanging up his boots.
With Carlos Tuimavave out for 10 weeks, fellow centre Jake Connor shifted into the halves due to injuries for Albert Kelly and Marc Sneyd, winger Fetuli Talanoa sidelined for more than two months and another winger – Bureta Faraimo – banned, he was keen to do his thing.
But then Griffin suffered a serious knee injury in Newcastle, too, to add to Radford’s woes so Yeaman – who has now played 375 games for his hometown club – will definitely do it all again at Warrington Wolves on Friday.
As stiff as he may have been yesterday morning, you know the former Great Britain star is certainly happy to oblige.
Yeaman is, after all, still only 34 which makes you wonder whether he may have retired a little too early to start with.
“I do sometimes say that,” he told The Yorkshire Post. “At the time (in 2016) when we’d won the Challenge Cup I was still 32.
“I’d just turned 33 when Hull offered me the job, an opportunity I couldn’t really turn down to join the coaching staff. So, maybe I did feel I retired a year too early and I can now class this last 20 months as a nice rest I’ve just had!
“I’ll keep putting my hand up as long as Radders still needs me.
“It was weird. It felt like a second debut. I felt like a kid making his debut. But once you get out on the pitch I’ve done it all my life so it just comes as second nature.
“I was just a little bit more tired than I normally would be!
“I got through the 80 minutes, though, and we got the win so I’m over the moon. It was great.”
In fairness, Yeaman conceded his current work regime had helped him quickly readjust to life in Super League.
“I spend all my time in the gym and doing conditioning on the field with the boys,” he said.
“It’s lucky that I’m doing that. I join in with the lads and do my own weights so it’s probably left me in good stead to play a game like this. Radders wouldn’t have asked me if he didn’t think I was anywhere near fit enough to play a match. My timing was off here and there but that’s nothing that won’t get better over the next couple of weeks, hopefully.”
Yeaman is the club’s record try-scorer in derby meetings but he could not quite add to that tally.
“There was one chance in the second half where I should have probably not passed to (Jack) Logan and dummied instead,” he said.
“I think I’d have gone in then but it’s ifs and buts isn’t it?
“As long as we got the win that was the main thing.
“This club means a lot to me. I‘ve been with them since I was 14-years-old and I’ve been honoured to work for them.
“If I keep holding my hand up if they need me – regardless of who we’re playing – I’m more than happy.”
As the club await results of scans on Griffin’s knee, with fears the 28-year-old may be out for the rest of the season, Yeaman could be set for a renaissance.
Alongside him, 18-year-old Cam Scott made a solid Super League debut in the victory over Rovers which, for all their injury problems, saw the Challenge Cup holders go fourth, just two points behind Warrington in third.