Wigan boss Matt Peet admits Ryan Hampshire faces an uncertain future with the club yet to make a contract decision beyond 2023.
Hampshire, 28, returned to his former team ahead of the current campaign from Castleford Tigers and marked his first team return from an ACL injury in the sixth round Challenge Cup win over Leeds Rhinos.
He later featured in the dramatic 26-22 Super League win over Hull KR at the end of May, but has not played under Peet since.
The Wigan head coach praised the resilience and patience of the utility back, having found himself below Jai Field, Bevan French, Harry Smith and Cade Cust on the pecking order at the DW Stadium.
“I was stood watching training with Chris Barron, our strength and conditioning coach, and we were singing Ryan’s praises about how selfless he’s being at the moment. He’s dying for an opportunity,” Peet told Love Rugby League.
“We have really good conversations with him and I just keep saying, he’ll never know when it’s going to come up, but all I can say is that he’s given himself the best preparation with how hard he’s training.
“When we went to Leeds in the Challenge Cup, and Hull KR away, he played an important part in two wins and as far as back-up halves go, I don’t think you can have anyone better.
“For us having him and Cade Cust in training as the halves against our first team, I think there’s partnerships in Super League that would envy having them two as starters.”
Ryan Hampshire future discussed by Wigan boss
Hampshire made 30 appearances for the club during his first stint, having earned his professional debut in 2013 against Widnes.
He played under Peet originally in the academy, and later went on to enjoy his most successful stint with hometown club Wakefield between 2018 and 2021, playing 86 games and scoring 28 tries.
Peet conceded that Hampshire could look elsewhere for 2024 in order to find more game time, although admits in an ‘ideal world’ he would keep the former Leigh man.
“Whether it’s here or elsewhere next year, he certainly has the potential to be an outstanding Super League half-back, that’s why we brought him here,” Peet continued.
“I’m really proud of the way he’s applying himself at the moment.
“We were really blunt with Ryan when he came to the club in what his role was going to be.
“Conversations are quite easy with him, but I imagine he is frustrated as much as he is determined. The way we played last week, he probably thinks he could come in and execute better.
“I’ve been very open with Ryan. They’re not easy conversations because he needs some security. He knows that he’s able to look elsewhere.
“I think his preference is to stay here, but we’re yet to make a decision on him either way.
“In an ideal world, we’d have him here with us in a role because he brings so much to the club.
“But we have to get the balance right with the squad and we’ve got a salary cap to manage. At the moment, we’re not able to make that commitment to him. But I honestly can’t praise him enough.”