PROP Oliver Wilkes has revealed his frustration at missing out on Wakefield Wildcats’ pre-season training trip to Perpignan this week.
The 31-year-old is at home recovering from keyhole surgery to remove his appendix while the rest of his team-mates, apart from skipper Steve Southern whose wife is heavily pregnant, take part in a week-long intensive training trip to France.
The Cumbrian, returning for a second spell in the red, white and blue, felt stomach pains last Tuesday and had his appendix removed the following day. But his recovery period has been prolonged slightly due to an infection to his wound.
It’s put his pre-season training back a few weeks and the former Harlequins man admits it’s been a tough time.
“It’s really frustrating because I’ve worked so hard in pre-season on things like muscle training and endurance and then I get a knock-back like this,” said Wilkes.
“We’ve been back in training for weeks now and it’s all been going well. Now I’m going to have two weeks’ of catching up to do when I’m back in training.”
“I’ve lost a bit of weight and I’ve lost a bit of muscle that I’m going to have to work on when I’m back in training. It’s going to be three really tough weeks when I get back training on Monday.”
The set-back has come at a bad time for the prop with just three weeks to go before the start of the new Super League campaign.
Wilkes is still hoping to be fit for the season opening at his former club Widnes Vikings on Friday, February 3 and admits it’s “just one of those things”.
“I was training last Tuesday and felt a bit tired after but didn’t think anything of it other than it being a tough training session,” he revealed.
“I’ve got a little baby so maybe I thought with her waking me up it might be something to do with that! But in the evening I had some stomach pains and felt sick and it just got worse.
“I could hardly stand up so at 2am I called the NHS helpline and went in to the centre in town the next day and they sent me to Pinderfields [hospital]. They gave me some things to numb the pain, I slept a few hours and then they operated on me.
“There was a bit of a set-back though because I got an infection when the wound was stitched back up. It’s going to delay the healing process a bit.”
Wilkes is disappointed to have missed the trip to France this week, which culminates in a trial game against Catalan Dragons tomorrow, Saturday.
But he was part of the group that enjoyed a similar trip away to Wales just before Christmas, something he believes was crucial to a much-changed Wakefield side for 2012.
“I’m a bit gutted I’m not to be in France,” he admitted.
“It’s a good chance for the lads to bond and to make use of quality facilities for some good training. The coach can get some quality time with the players because they’re all away from their families and the coach has their undivided attention. It’s very disappointing not to be there but it’s just one of those things.”
He continued: “It was good going away to Wales because you get to learn more about your team mates, so it’s especially good when there’s a whole new squad at a club like with Wakefield.
“[Changes] happen at all clubs at the start of new seasons but even more so with Wakefield. They’re all a great set of lads.”
On his chances of making the opening-day clash, Wilkes said: “Fingers crossed I’ll be back.
“I’m so happy to be back at Wakefield, I really enjoyed it here last time. I love the club and class Wakefield as my second home after Cumbria.
“It’d be brilliant to go out against Widnes live on television for the first game of the season but if I can’t it won’t be the end of the world.”
Wilkes missed just two matches in two seasons during his last spell at Wakefield between 2008-09 before he moved on to Harlequins.
He left having helped Wildcats to their best-ever Super League finish in fifth in 2009 and is predicting more good things for 2012.
“Things are a lot more professional since the last time I was here,” he revealed.
“It [the club] seems to have come a long way and obviously has new owners, coaching staff and new players.
“I can’t say we’re going to make the Grand Final in the first year after so many changes, that would be unrealistic.
“We’re going to have to build as a team but there’s no reason why we can’t make the play-offs and also do well in them.”
The former Keighley Cougar also believes he’s improved as a player.
“I think I’ve developed certain areas of my game since the last time I was here,” he said.
“I’ll always be a player who gives 100 per cent in every game and run my heart out for the team.
“I may not be a game-breaker but I’ll always give my all for the team.”
See this week’s Wakefield Express Sport for all the latest sports news from around the district.