WIGAN WARRIORS coach Matt Peet paid tribute to Ryan Hampshire after only his third appearance of the season on Friday night.
Hampshire, who was brought in on a one-year deal at the start of the season, has not been a permanent feature in Peet’s first team plans for a while.
He signed for the Warriors while still nursing a knee injury, but he has worked hard to get himself fully fit and Peet concedes he is putting in the hard graft.
Hampshire started the Challenge Cup win over Leeds at Headingley and the golden-point extra-time win over Hull KR in May, but he had not featured at all since then until Friday.
The 28-year-old was named on the bench against Castleford as Peet opted to rest some players and he got 40 minutes in the second half as a replacement for Harry Smith.
“He’s earned it, as his attitude has been outstanding,” said Peet.
“We’ve had some of the senior players and coaches coming to us singing his praises. He’s really forced our hand into picking him. It was just a matter of finding the right week to fit him in and we might need him again this season.”
Peet is confident that Liam Farrell and Brad O’Neill will both be fit to face Leigh Leopards on Friday after they both sat out the 48-6 win over the Tigers.
The Warriors need to beat Leigh on Friday to secure the League Leaders’ Shield and Peet will be hoping he has a full squad to choose from.
“Liam had a tight calf but he will be fine for a full week’s training next week,” said Peet.
“Brad O’Neill coming out was an opportunity to get Ryan Hampshire onto the bench as we always wanted to refresh our halfback options in the game. We got a chance to give Morgan Smithies a rest too, which ticked a box.”
Peet is looking forward to the test against Leigh and the chance to claim silverware, but his main goal is getting to Old Trafford next month.
“To finish top would be fantastic for the club as it would show consistency,” added Peet.
“The message to the players is that we have got to execute everything we have learnt all year into the next three games for this season to be deemed a success.”
“It’s going to be awesome. We know what to expect from Leigh with the season they’ve had and there is no doubt that they’ll be motivated to win their last home game of the regular year in style. It’s going to be a cracking night.”
Peet revealed that there was no fresh news on the injury status of prop forward Liam Byrne after he went off against Leeds, saying they are waiting for a second opinion of his scan and will inform everyone once they have the full facts.