GARY THORNTON is praying that Sam Orange’s injury nightmare will soon be over so he can finally “show York City Knights fans what he can do”.
Second-rower Orange, a product of York Acorn ARLC, signed for his home-town club a year ago from Castleford Tigers but had to sit out the entire 2013 campaign after undergoing a knee reconstruction following a ligament injury that threatened his fledgling career.
Before that, he endured two injury-hit years that stalled his progress at Wheldon Road, all beginning with a serious car accident in late 2010 which left him with memory loss issues.
The 21-year-old has not quite lost his injury hoodoo either, as a wrist problem in pre-season has left him kicking his heels a bit in recent weeks.
However, head coach Thornton, while admitting the player may take a while to rediscover match sharpness after so long on the sidelines, cannot but admire the player’s steadfastness and determination to overcome so many blows.
“He’s looking all right,” said Thornton, who had coached Orange in Castleford’s academy before both made the switch to Huntington Stadium.
“He’s picked up another slight knock which must be so frustrating for him – he’s had knocks all over the place – but we’re hoping he’ll play against Cas (on Sunday) or Gateshead (on January 26) in pre-season.
“His training has been a little bit limited as regards what he can get involved with and I’ve told him not to do anything that can jeopardise things. But the knee is holding up all right so it’s good that’s not been a problem.
“People don’t really know much about him as he’s not played that much, but I’ve seen him play and I know what he’s about when he’s on the pitch.
“It will be really good for him to get back out on the field. Even if he just plays 20 minutes here, 30 minutes there, it’s important he gets game time to see where he is.”
The player himself told The Press last September that his post-op rehab programme left him stronger and fitter than ever, and Thornton has added he is bigger than ever too after seeing the player at work in the gym.
“He’s one of our stronger athletes now, which has a lot to do with how much gym work he’s been doing,” he said.
“You have to be impressed with how he’s been. Because of his injuries, he’s spent a lot of time in rehab and in the gym.
“He’s incredibly strong for a guy of his size – well, I say ‘for his size’ but, because of not playing, he’s concentrated on weights and he’s a big lad now.
“He’s a good athlete but people aren’t sure what he offers because he hasn’t played. I would like to get him on the field to see where we are and so he can get up to speed after his year out and ultimately show people what he can do.”