A hamstring injury wrecked the 2021 Super League season for Bevan French, but after a long road to recovery the Australian is delighted to be back playing for Wigan following his return to action last week
By Marc Bazeley
Last Updated: 09/04/22 2:51pm
There was no easing himself back into action for Bevan French. Straight after his return to action for Wigan Warriors after 10 months out, the Australian was into a session with the club’s strength and conditioning team.
Spending what remained of the night in the wake of coming off the interchange bench onto the wing in the second half of the 19-18 win at home to Hull FC doing what he can to keep improving his fitness levels shows French’s determination to make an impact after an injury-disrupted 2021.
Indeed, the 26-year-old knows that is exactly what he needs to do if he is to replicate the performances which saw him earn a place in the 2020 Super League Dream Team and earn a nomination Man of Steel in his maiden season with Wigan.
“I’m still a fair way off where I need to be,” French said. “The boys had a really tough pre-season and even being back now, they’re still working very hard during the week as well.
“I missed quite a chunk there and I’ve got to take every opportunity I can to get back up to scratch and be at my best.
“It felt like an eternity since I’ve been on the field. It’s been a long process to get back and I was just happy to get that feeling and be out there again.”
It has been a long and difficult road back to fitness for French, who was initially expected to be out for 12 weeks after suffering a torn hamstring in the Warriors’ Round 7 clash with Salford Red Devils in Super League last year.
However, it soon transpired he required surgery and the full-back was subsequently allowed to return to Australia for family reasons to complete his rehabilitation.
Even then though, Covid-enforced lockdowns led to him getting behind in his rehab and French admits finding the period mentally challenging as well, although he remains grateful to the support Wigan have shown him throughout.
The Warriors had been impressed enough with him to extend his contract for the 2022 season during that period as well and head coach Matt Peet, who was assistant to Adrian Lam when French first joined, is delighted with what he has seen from him since taking charge.
“He’s worked hard since, so although he didn’t play a full game on the night [against Hull FC], he’s done a full game’s work since,” Peet said. “We’ve got something to build on now with Bevan.
“He’s been fantastic since he came back. He’s a very popular member of the team and the club, well-liked by the team-mates and staff, and everyone at the club. He’s quite inspiring the way he goes about his business.”
French has quickly settled back into life at Wigan with Peet now in charge and is impressed with the work which has been done to bring the players closer together and try to put the club back at the heart of the community in the town and surrounding area.
“A lot of people might not like hearing this, but I think here at this club now, rugby league doesn’t come first,” French said.
“Obviously we still work hard and want to win everything, but we’ve got a big emphasis on everyone getting to know each other with a deeper bond and getting back into the community of Wigan. I think the way that is set up around here is the main difference I’ve realised since coming back.
“He’s [Peet] obviously our coach, but he’s like a mate as well. There has been a big emphasis on that, just building relationships in the club and town, and it’s making it a really enjoyable place to be.”
French, who is capable of playing on the wing or in the halves if required as well, faces stiff competition to regain the full-back role in the team following the emergence of Jai Field – another player whose 2021 campaign was disrupted by injury – in the opening rounds of the season.
Nevertheless, he is likely to play some role in Sunday’s Challenge Cup quarter-final away to an improving Wakefield Trinity side and French is eager to take a step closer to the final at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as the 19-time winners seek to lift the trophy for the first time since 2013.
“The last Challenge Cup game, we spoke about the importance of these things,” French said. “Wigan haven’t won one for a while and it isn’t going to be an easy challenge going out to Wakefield.
“They’ll certainly be up for it, especially at their home stadium, but it’s exciting – there aren’t many games left in this competition to win a trophy. The boys are excited for it, and we can’t wait.”