Tim Smith was not the only key player returning for Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in their victory over Hull KR on Saturday, with prop Andy Raleigh playing a big part and receiving the plaudits of head coach Richard Agar.
A rib injury had forced the former Huddersfield Giant out of Wakefield’s opening day defeat at Bradford Bulls but he was passed fit to feature against Rovers and showed just why he was named Players’ player and coaches player of the year last season.
Raleigh’s return gave the Wildcats forward pack a big boost after a well below-par showing at the Provident Stadium in Round 1 and his performance resulted in him collecting the sponsor’s man of the match honours against KR.
“Andy’s a guy that’s probably a little bit underestimated,” said Agar.
“He’s quiet, he goes about his work, he just gets his job done. I think your teammates really appreciate players that can do that. He’s a bit of an unsung hero for us, you know what you’re going to get from him every week.”
Agar believes the 31-year-old will only get better with more minutes on the pitch after enduring a problematic close season with niggling injuries.
Raleigh featured only in the trial game at St Helens and was forced off early with the rib injury that saw him miss the trip to Bradford.
“He’s had a difficult pre-season,” admitted Agar.
“He’s had one or two little niggles, he didn’t have a great period during the trials and he missed last week and was well short of a run
“I thought his performance [against Hull KR] showed he’s mentally and physically an experienced player and I thought he got through the game really well and he will get better. He will get some longer minutes out of him as the season progresses.”
The Wildcats head coach was also pleased with the performance of Kyle Amor, who was knocked out following a big hit in the second half but should be available for Wakefield’s trip to London Broncos this weekend.
“I thought he was carrying the ball really well for us and I thought that took a little bit out of us [when he went off] and we had to use our front rowers a little bit longer and a little bit earlier off the bench than we might have done ordinarily,” Agar said.
“We handled it alright and it was Raleigh’s first game back and Timmy Smith’s first game back and I thought they made a big difference to our team.
He continued: “[Amor was] Talking even more gibberish than usual. He’s alright. He was knocked out and they said he just kept repeating himself and talking a load of rubbish which is hard for the medics to differentiate whether he did have a head knock or not!”
“But he’s alright, he’s good. He’ll have to pass a head test to play next week because he was out, but I think both players [Lincoln Withers, who left the field with a head injury less than a minute into the match] have come through what looked quite serious injuries.”
Justin Poore tightened his hamstring but Agar praised the Australian’s commitment when he came on to plug the gap left by the injured Amor.
“He felt it a little bit at half-time but he stuck his hand up for another short stint in the second half and we really needed it at that time as well,” Agar said.
“Amor got his knock and it could have been a worry for us but he stuck his hand up and said he’ll get through and manage ten minutes and I thought he did it exceptionally well at a time we needed it.”