AND just like that, it begins…

Gareth Widdop had been in training with his new teammates for a matter of days but now, his season will start late after suffering an ankle injury.

The dark humourists have been predicting it given his past injury record – “who had pre-season in the sweepstake?” was one comment on the news – and sadly, they have rung true.

It could have been worse – Widdop's injury is not as serious as the injury that struck Kevin Brown down this time last year – but it is still absolutely the last thing Warrington Wolves needed to be dealing with.

A more entertaining style of play has been promised and while the season is long and there is plenty of time for that to come together, The Wire will start 2020 in effect with largely the same squad that finished 2019 so dismally.

That was going to be the case anyway, but Widdop has earmarked as the man to make a key difference in getting The Wire's creative juices flowing.

Scepticism was prevalent among the fanbase about that promise even with Widdop fit, but this news will only serve to increase the feeling of “here we go again.”

The need to start this season strongly cannot be underestimated so with that in mind, this is the worst thing that could have happened.

Yes, he is only expected to miss three games – but let’s look at the fixtures The Wire’s marquee man will be watching from the stands.

Wigan away, Saints at home – the kind of blue-chip fixtures against rivals and neighbours he was brought in to shine in – and the ever-tricky trip to Wakefield.

I am not for one minute saying that Wolves cannot beat their nearest and dearest without Widdop – although that may be the opinion of some – but it no doubt sends them into the season on the back foot.

The rolling-out of the half-back partnership with Blake Austin – billed the best in the world in some quarters – will have to wait.

Steve Price will have been keen to use this time, particularly next week’s training camp in Portugal, to get Austin and Widdop as acquainted with each other as possible on and off the field.

That time would have been precious to put the building blocks of their link-up in place but now, they will have to pick things up as they go along.

This is a huge blow in a pre-season that has already been quiet on the recruitment front. Everything needed to go smoothly, but the bumps in the road have started.