PHIL Joy has revealed that his long-awaited comeback after a “nightmare” three-month injury absence could be just around the corner.
Oldham’s biggest forward, six ft 2in and 111 kilos, will be back in full training next week and might be available for the Roughyeds’ next game against Batley Bulldogs at the Manchester Regional Arena on Sunday week, May 21.
“Potentially, that could be on, but first I’ve got to prove my fitness and then I’ve got to be selected,” said Joy, who hasn’t played since he dislocated his left shoulder in the third game of the season against London Broncos at Bower Fold on February 19.
He’s missed 11 games in league and cup —- four wins, one draw and six defeats.
Roughyeds have certainly missed him and his height, weight and bulk in the all-important battles of the front-row or, to use modern terminology, the middle units.
It was first feared he would need an operation, but when he last met his consultant he was given the option of undergoing extensive and advanced return-to-training rehab over three weeks and then playing again in the hope of seeing out the season without further mishap.
“Being out of the game so long has been a nightmare — really tough to swallow,” said 25-year-old Joy. “I can’t wait to get back.
“I’ve done my three weeks of ‘special’ rehab ordered by the consultant so I’m expecting to start full training with the squad on Tuesday and my aim is to convince the physios and the medical team that I’m good to go.
“I hope to get full clearance next Thursday, in which case I’ll be available for selection for the Batley game and then it’s up to Scott (head coach Naylor) and what he thinks is best for the team and best for me.
“There are two minor features of the injury that potentially could still need surgery at the end of the season.
“Scott says he has known a lot of players who have coped okay with similar injuries, but the consultant has stressed that if I’m going to start playing again soon we will have to look after the shoulder week by week and give it all the care and attention it requires.
“The best scenario is that I get through the second half of the season without anything going wrong again. If that happens, and with a full off-season to follow, I probably wouldn’t need an operation after all.”
To get Joy back in the pack would be a massive mid-term boost for Naylor’s men, who can climb to seventh, their highest-ever Championship placing, if they can inflict, at the Regional Arena, Batley’s sixth defeat in a row.
Also making excellent progress is the club’s other long-term injury victim, Craig Briscoe.
A knee injury restricted him to seven games last season, his first with the Roughyeds, and he is now fighting back from a major reconstruction of his right knee, which was always expected to keep him sidelined for most of 2017.
Every Tuesday and every Thursday night he travels to Oldham from his home in Wigan to do his rehab with the club’s physios and then enviously watch his team mates in preparation for their next game.
He’s getting there though — and that keeps his spirits up.
“The physios are always telling me I am well ahead of schedule and making excellent progress,” said the second-row forward, who hopes to get in a few games before the end of the season.
“I’m on track to start a little bit of straight-line running either next week or the week after that and that in itself will be a major breakthrough.
“Initially, I hoped to get in a couple of games at the back end of the season, but the way things are going I’m now thinking of five or six, though I’m probably being a bit optimistic with that.
“The main thing is I’m getting nearer as every week goes by and at the age of 24 I still have most of my rugby career ahead of me.”
Fans wishing to buy Summer Bash tickets or limited-edition replicas of the special shirts to be worn by the players in their televised game against Rochdale at Blackpool on Saturday, May 27 can contact the club between 9.30am and 3pm tomorrow (Friday) on 07904898177.