Cougars coach Paul March has backed Ben Stead to bounce back from his training-ground injury setback.

The young half-back from Riddlesden suffered a fractured eye socket and nose in a collision during a full-contact session last week.

It left the Cougars scholarship product needing an operation and having to wear a protective nose-piece following surgery at Bradford Royal Infirmary.

March is disappointed to lose the 20-year-old for up to three months but is confident the youngster will come back just as strong.

He said: “Hopefully Ben will bounce back quickly. There is an element of ‘is it going to happen again?’ but knowing Ben, as soon as he is fit for contact sessions, he will want to get straight back into it. The first session back is always the worst.”

Stead found himself on the end of a loose elbow in a tackle involving big forwards Jodie Sheriffe and Scott Law. But he attached no blame to his team-mates and said: “It was just a freak accident.

“It was very painful and there was plenty of blood. I could feel the indentation at the side of my nose.”

The former Holy Family School pupil went straight for an X-ray at Airedale Hospital before going under the knife at the BRI last Friday.

“It doesn’t feel too bad now and seems to be healing well – but it could be the end of February or March before I’m ready to return,” said Stead, who was wished a speedy recovery on Twitter by former Cougars chief Jason Demetriou, now back in Australia.

Stead should be back running and weight-training in a month but could have to wait another two months before taking part in full-contact action.

It means the former Cougar Cubs player faces a frustrating stint on the sidelines in pre-season when he wanted to impress March in what is his first full season as part of the first-team squad.

Stead said: “I really wanted to work hard and play in a few of the friendlies but that’s not to be. I’m still confident of making an impact when I return.”

March echoed those sentiments, saying: “It’s a shame Ben will miss the pre-season friendlies as, like all our youngsters, he is coming on in leaps and bounds. I’ve been really pleased with them.

“Ben is one of 14 local lads and we are creating a pathway for them where we can develop them instead of losing them to other clubs.”

Meanwhile, the Cougars have added two more dates to their pre-season calendar. March’s men will visit promoted Championship sides Barrow (Sunday, January 6, 2pm) and Doncaster (Sunday, January 20, 3pm).