Wigan Warriors prop Liam Byrne has opened up on playing through the pain barrier last season, missing out on the Grand Final and his determination to make 2024 his best season to date.
The 24-year-old prop was given the number 10 shirt by head coach Matt Peet ahead of last season, a number which he has retained for 2024.
Byrne made 24 appearances for the Warriors in 2023, putting his hand up to play in the team’s hour of need when they were down on troops in the forward pack.
The Ireland international was playing with a cracked rib midway through the season, willing to do anything to help his team-mates when they were short on packmen.
Speaking to Love Rugby League at Wigan’s media day, Byrne explained: “I had a cracked rib and I couldn’t get much load into me through the week in training, so I could play each week and have a jab and get through it with painkillers and stuff but I wasn’t actually able to get any load into me through the week so it was a bit of a struggle at times because I couldn’t prepare for games in the same way, so it was just about turning up on the weekend. It was a bit of a weird patch.
“We had quite a lot of injuries at the time and it was tough but it’s what is expected at the same time, so you just have to do your job really.”
After having a short break to recover midway through the campaign, Byrne returned to the team and was hitting some of his best form, particularly with a dominant display in the front-row in a 34-0 away win over Catalans Dragons in August.
“We had a bit of a rest and I managed to get a good rest in, I think I had a week or two off and when I came back in I felt really good after that so my rib was all sorted and I felt pretty good,” he reflected.
But Byrne’s campaign was ended early due to a hamstring injury that saw him miss out on Wigan’s Grand Final success at Old Trafford.
“I think I was just finding my run of form really and then I got an injury which was unfortunate but it happens, it’s the sport,” a reflective Byrne added.
Wigan Warriors powerhouse Liam Byrne eager to make 2024 his best season yet
He said: “I’ve managed to get a bit more of a pre-season in this year because last year I had a bit of an injury, so it’s been good to get some load back into me and now I’m just looking forward to getting into some pre-season games and getting some minutes.
“My hamstring is feeling good now and my body is feeling good, so I’m just excited to get back into it.”
Byrne forms part of a formidable looking Wigan pack for 2024, with new recruits Luke Thompson, Sam Walters, Sam Eseh and Kruise Leeming having linked up with Peet’s side.
“Before anything, the way they are off the field is really good and they’re gentlemen kind of people and I get on really well with them,” Byrne said of the new signings.
“On the field they work hard and I think they’re going to be really good signings for us, so I’m excited to get out there on the pitch with them.”