Winger James Clare had more reasons than most to celebrate Castleford Tigers’ victory over Wigan Warriors.
The local lad played a big part in the 19-18 win and was just delighted to be able to get back out on the pitch after breaking his leg just 10 weeks earlier.
Clare played the full 80 minutes of last Friday’s epic win, providing Tigers with some rare good news on the injury front.
He is expected to feature again away to Catalans Dragons on Saturday and reckons he will get better the more games he plays.
“My lungs were a bit heavy,” he said of last week’s game.
“I’ve put on a bit of weight, just working out in the gym and stuff like that.
“I don’t know if it was just carrying that or the first game back, or the game intensity.
“Wigan came to play and that’s what made it so challenging.
“Sometimes you can get games when there’s so much on the line the teams play low-risk football, but Wigan wanted to play and that’s what made it so difficult.
“When you are playing one of the best teams in the league, which Wigan are, you’re going to be challenged, but it is minutes under my belt and hopefully I can get a game against Catalans and I’ll be even better for it.”
Despite the severity of his injury, Clare felt lucky it was not worse.
He said: “I broke my leg 10 weeks ago, but to be fair, breaks and bone injuries are probably better for rugby league players than anything else just because if you break your leg it’s six-eight weeks on crutches, then the bone has healed.
“There was nothing wrong with the actual structure of my leg, my quad or my hamstring, I could still use them.
“I was probably just a little bit early getting back, but with the injuries we’ve got at this moment in time I wanted to put my hand up and I wanted to play.”
Tigers were without 11 players due to injury against Wigan, but Greg Eden is nearing his comeback and another potential winger, Tuoyo Egodo, made his first Super League appearance of the season off the bench last week.
“We’ve got competition even with the injuries,” Clare said. “There’s still players wanting to play so I need to try every single week to keep that spot.”
The win over Wigan lifted Tigers to third in the table and will send them to France in buoyant mood.
Clare added: “Wigan have been one of the best teams in this country for a couple of years now. It was good to beat them and to give the fans something as well.
“We’ve not performed as well as we did last year so to give them a special win like that was really nice.
“It’s a tough period now, but we’ll get a couple of players back in a couple of weeks and a couple more a few weeks after that.
“Players who are in the team now are fighting to keep the shirt they’ve got. Even though the big names will be coming back soon the players who are in now have got an opportunity to keep the shirt and that’ll be great for us.”