From crying in toilets to career best form – the remarkable rejuvenation of Lee Mossop

Lee Mossop, in his own words, is the captain of a bunch of misfits.

The prop is the leader of his team. Between them, most were unwanted, exiled or damaged goods when they arrived at Salford.

Mossop was no different. Three years before signing for Salford he had earned a contract in the NRL with Parramatta fresh off winning a Grand Final with the Warriors. When he arrived at the AJ Bell Stadium he was a castaway with no other options.

A shoulder injury plagued his time in Australia and his two subsequent years back at Wigan. When he turned up at Salford, the anguish had resorted to him being too scared to play.

“I’d had some awful luck with injuries and I was going into each game petrified,” he said.

“I’ll make no bones about it. I would go into a toilet before a game and there was a time when I actually cried. I was literally petrified. That’s no exaggeration.

“My shoulder was horrendous, it was being held in by nothing and I’d had I think my seventh shoulder reconstruction on it. Some people have one and don’t get back into it and I was on my seventh. I was terrified.

“I’d gone from thinking about coming up against certain players and wanting to get one over them, to just begging I didn’t dislocate my shoulder that week. That’s how bad it got, I didn’t think about playing well, I just didn’t want my shoulder to dislocate again.”

But Ian Watson saw something other coaches didn’t. When others saw the Cumbrian as a sick note, Watson saw an international prop forward waiting to be rediscovered.

Mossop is now playing the best rugby of his career. He has gone two years without any shoulder issues and is back in the mindset of testing himself against international calibre players.

“He (Ian Watson) has probably done that with 15 or 20 other players,” Mossop added.

“Watto brought me in and got me back to and above the standard I was playing at Wigan I’d like to think. He’s instilled a mentality where you play with a smile on your face and graft for your team-mates.

“But our physio Rob Artingstall, he’d done what four or five others couldn’t. He got my shoulder to stop dislocating and got me out on to the field and being able to use it, rather than trying to hide it from players and trying to protect it. I can throw my shoulder in and not be scared of dislocating it anymore.

“I’ve not had any shoulder issues for two years and I’m seeing my potential again. Each week I’ve gone up against an international who is in either the Elite squad or the Great Britain squad and I’m back to the point where I want to have a pop at them and see how I get on.”

Together, Mossop and his team-mates have unexpectedly invaded Super League’s top table, finishing the season third above star-studded, big-spending teams such as Warrington and Leeds.

On Friday they face another of those sides, Mossop’s former club, Wigan. Trying to compare the wealth and resources the two clubs boast would be similar to likening a Ferrari to a Fiat Punto.

“At clubs like Wigan you take for granted the backroom staff of 20 or 30 blokes, you get paid bang on the day you’re meant to. There’s a whole list of things that you just think is the norm.

“But when you come to Salford, that wasn’t neccessarilly happening. About two months ago, Watto was literally the sole member of staff. Our welfare manager picked up another job. He was literally doing everything. I just think it’s a credit to him how he’s handled it and cracked on.

“I think it makes the achievements we’re about to achieve even more special.”