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PNG International, Paul Aiton ready to roll for Wild Cats

Paul Aiton.
Paul Aiton. Image credit: Yorkshire Evening Post
Star hooker Paul Aiton is ready to rebuild his career after an impressive debut season at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats was shattered by a shocking off-field incident.  The 27-year-old Papua New Guinea international missed the final eight games of the 2012 campaign after suffering a badly broken jaw when he was mugged during a weekend break in Spain last July.
He was unable to eat properly for four months following surgery to insert a plate and four screws into his shattered face, as well as a wire to hold his jaw together.
That led to him losing three stones in weight and – to add to the agony – he had to watch from the sidelines as Wildcats stormed into the Super League play-offs.

The long lay-off was a massive blow for one of the team’s most influential players, though he had already done enough to earn a contract extension – signed last August – which will keep him at the club until the end of 2015.
Aiton is now looking to reward the faith Wildcats have shown in him and prove he has lost none of the fire and energy which made him one of Super League’s most eye-catching 2012 recruits.
Having played in all three of Wildcats’ pre-season games and reported no ill-effects he is itching to get stuck into the real business, which begins when Wildcats visit Bradford Bulls in Super League round one on Sunday, February 3.
With Andy Ellis – who filled in impressively over the final quarter of last season – having joined Featherstone Rovers and back-up hooker Kyle Wood on the casualty list due to an eye injury, Wakefield will need Aiton firing on all cylinders for the season-proper.
“It is a big relief to be back playing again,” Aiton admitted. “I didn’t really realise how long I was out for.
“I was out for quite a while, the longest I’ve been out in my whole career so far. It was a big holiday and it’s good to be back.”
Reflecting on his long spell out of the game, he added: “It has been a tough time, especially because it was nothing to do with rugby – just wrong place, wrong time.
“That was the main thing that was a bit depressing, but now fortunately I am back and I have really enjoyed the pre-season.
“It has been tough, but I have loved it just being back around all the boys and the club. I am fully fit and I’ve just been trying to get game time so I am ready for round one.
“It’s good to get game time, you can’t really train for game-fitness. The game time I have got has been good for me and I will just keep building on that and see how we go.”

Wildcats have had mixed results in their pre-season fixtures, losing to Super League rivals Leeds Rhinos on Boxing Day and St Helens last weekend, but overcoming Featherstone Rovers in between.
Worryingly for coach Richard Agar, they have picked up a series of injuries in training and matches and prop Kyle Amor has yet to feature following off-season shoulder surgery.
After their achievements of last year, when they won their final seven league games to snatch eighth place in the league table, Wakefield have lost the element of surprise and Aiton said everyone at the club is gearing up for a challenging campaign.

“It is going to be a tough year, definitely, because we will be pushing for a higher spot,” the former Penrith Panthers and Cronulla Sharks rake predicted.
“We can’t be happy with what we did last year.
“That has gone now, but for me I want to get out there and win some games with the boys, because I missed out on that (Wildcats’ strong finish) last year.”

Ironically, though Aiton was outstanding for Wildcats over the opening three-quarters of the campaign, their long winning run began after he had been sidelined.

“Pretty much everything just started going together and we just developed as a group, but it just seemed to happen after I got injured,” he recalled.
“It was unfortunate to miss out, but I was happy we were winning.”
Improving on last year’s league position and winning a play-off tie will be two of Wildcats’ goals in 2013, but Aiton also has an eye on the end of the year when he hopes to feature for Papua New Guinea in their World Cup campaign.

Aiton captained PNG in the 2010 Four Nations and he said: “I’d definitely like to be part of the World Cup.

“That is one of my goals, to get in that side and to have a good season leading into it. That would be perfect for me.”
Aiton put his time out of rugby to good use as he, team-mate Dean Collis and Wakefield businessman Martin Osborne set up an internet business Me Family Co selling personalised car stickers.
Half-back Bobbie Goulding, who signed for Wildcats from Warrington Wolves late last year, has joined Co-op Championship outfit Doncaster on dual-registration.
The son of the former Great Britain star, of the same name, made his first appearance for the South Yorkshire outfit in their win over Keighley Cougars three days ago, kicking six goals from as many attempts in a man of the match performance.
Wildcats complete their pre-season programme with a trip to Doncaster on Sunday afternoon.
Yorkshire Evening Post
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