SOME say if you peer closely around Belle Vue you can see Keegan Hirst still celebrating last year’s try against Wigan Warriors.
Few people there will forget that moment when the likeable prop dived over in the 80th minute of Wakefield’s final match of the season.
It was not consequential in the big scheme of things – Trinity won 32-0 and it still wasn’t enough to sneak back into the top-four – but for Hirst it meant the world mainly due to it being his first score for the West Yorkshire club.
Having made the step up from part-timers Batley Bulldogs the previous winter, it was also possibly confirmation – not that it was needed – that he had arrived in the big time.
Trinity chairman Michael Carter, meanwhile, always says it was his favourite moment of a memorable 2017 campaign.
This season has started well, too, Wakefield winning all four of their opening top-flight games for the first time in 73 years.
I like to do things dramatically so scoring my first try of the season in the last minute of the last game was pretty dramatic.Wakefield’s Keegan Hirst
They face Wigan for the first time since when they head over to the DW Stadium tomorrow.
“The lads were trying their hardest to get me off the ‘nudey run’,” recalled Hirst to The Yorkshire Post, referring to the ritual players go through if they do not score a try during the season.
“I was held up a couple of times and it was great to finally get over right at the end.
“I like to do things dramatically so scoring my first try of the season in the last minute of the last game was pretty dramatic.
“I don’t think we’re expecting a similar scoreline this weekend, but you can live in hope.”
Having had such a big impact off the bench in Sunday’s 22-4 win over Huddersfield Giants, Hirst hopes to retain his spot and celebrate a good week.
He has signed a new deal until the end of 2019 and the 30-year-old said: “It was nice to get it in the bag early so I can fully concentrate on the rest of the year now and it’s nice to have that bit of security for my family, too.”
He is a fine example of persistence; Hirst played all his career in the lower leagues with the likes of Dewsbury Rams, Featherstone Rovers and hometown Batley before getting his chance.
“I didn’t think I’d play Super League, go full-time or anything like that and I’d made my peace with that,” he explained.
“When the opportunity did come along it was a bit of a gamble on their part and mine, too.
“I didn’t know if I would be good enough to play Super League, but it’s turned out alright.”
So when did he realise he was good enough?
“It was probably at the end of the season when I was able to look back and reflect on what I’d done,” he added, Hirst having played 23 games for Chris Chester’s side.
“Certainly parts of pre-season I did wonder if I’d be able to manage it, but by the end, looking back, I realised I’d done a decent job there. I gained a lot of confidence as the season went on.”
So much confidence that going up against Wigan’s revered pack will not concern him in the slightest tomorrow, although there is plenty of respect there.
“They’re going well aren’t they?” added Hirst, Shaun Wane’s side having won three of their opening four games.
“No disrespect to Huddersfield, but I think Wigan will be a lot more threatening in attack.
“They have some really good playmakers and some threats out wide so I reckon we’ll have to be really good defensively to see out what they throw at us.”
Trinity fell just short of the Super League semi-finals last term, but if they can win a fifth successive game against a side like Wigan it will suggest they can make that final step in 2018.
Hirst said: “I don’t know if we can make any big statements for the rest of the season as who knows what can happen with injuries and things.
“But it will certainly be our biggest test so far and these are the types of games we need to be winning if we want to be challenging for that top four again,” Hirst added.
Wakefield hooker Tyler Randell is set to make his first appearance of the season after recovering from a knee injury while winger Mason Caton-Brown and centre Joe Arundel make way for the return of Tom Johnstone and Reece Lyne, who were rested for the win over Huddersfield. Second rower Justin Horo also returns.