JOEL Monaghan knows that 2014 may well be the final opportunity for him and his brother Michael to lift English rugby league’s most coveted prize together.
Michael, aged 33, has fought a near constant battle with fitness since being named Wolves’ player of the year in 2011, leaving many wondering how much longer the outstanding Aussie hooker can continue to endure the rigours of Super League.
But the 31-year-old winger believes Michael may have turned a corner after persistent knee and shoulder injuries, giving him hope that this year will not be the final opportunity for the Canberra-born brothers to complete an English trophy collection that already includes the Challenge Cup, the Super League Leaders’ Shield and a Lance Todd trophy for outstanding player in a Challenge Cup final.
“Who knows if it will be our last year together? I hope it isn’t but he will just have to see how it goes,” said Joel, who was Wolves’ top scorer for the third consecutive year when touching down 31 tries in 2013.
“It depends on his body.
“But, his knees are looking good, he’s flying at the moment and it is probably the best he has looked in pre-season for a number of years.”
Whatever happens, the fraternal pair will have at least one more opportunity to end a Grand Final hoodoo that has seen two trips to Old Trafford end in devastating loss.
Knocked cold by Pat Richards’ hip during an attempted tackle 37 minutes into Warrington’s doomed 2013 Super League title shot, Joel was carried off the field unconscious and bleeding heavily from an ear tear that nearly required plastic surgery to fix.
Wolves were leading 16-2 at the time, before the loss of Joel and, later, full back Stefan Ratchford meant Wolves eventually succumbed to a 30-16 Wigan comeback that started moments after the former Canberra Raiders winger had been stretchered from the field.
Nearly five months on, Monaghan still has not brought himself to watch the collapse that followed his departure, and he has no intention of doing so.
“The first thing I can remember was waking up in the ambulance on the way to the hospital,” he said.
“I woke up and Brett Hodgson was in the back of the ambulance with me.
“Then he had to go back for Stef (Ratchford), who arrived at the hospital about 20 minutes later with his ankle injury.
“It was a nightmare. I was all over the shop at the time.
“I haven’t gone back and watched it and I never will, it would do my head in too much.”
But that is not to say that he is unable to glean some positives from yet another failed attempt to break Warrington’s 58-year championship title drought.
“We just have to look at the positives of how we got there,” he added.
“We were one of the most consistent teams throughout the season and if we can do that again then we’ve got a shot.”