St Helens’ Mark Percival feared career-ending knee injury before Super League Grand final

St Helens star Mark Percival has told how just weeks ago he feared he might never play again – but is now steaming into the Super League Grand Final.

The England centre, 28, faces Leeds in Saturday’s Old Trafford decider as Saints bid for an unprecedented fourth straight title. But he has spent most of this campaign hobbling around, sidelined by a “weird” knee injury which simply didn’t want to go away. After four months out, Percival finally did make a timely return in Saturday’s semi-final win over Salford.

But it is only now he’s revealed the full alarming truth about the problems he’s faced. Percival explained: “I had a small fracture in my knee that I played with for a few weeks. The pain management was OK and I could do it and wanted to play. But then it caused bone fluid which isn’t good. It can cause other things to go really bad in the structure of your knee.

“I was seeing a few specialists and they said, while that fluid was there, I wasn’t allowed to play until it started showing resolvement. I just had to rest it and go on crutches a few days at a time to take the pressure off completely. It doesn’t sound much and when you explain to people they probably do feel ‘ah, just get on with it.’

“But it wasn’t like that. It was quite serious. If I’d carried on playing at that moment in time, I could have ended up ruining my career and not playing again.”

Thankfully, Percival did get the all-clear recently and successfully came through his long-awaited return unscathed. But on the enforced absence, he recalled: “It was very frustrating as I felt great. I wanted to carry on but the specialist just wouldn’t allow it. It was a bit hush-hush at the time but I’m back now and won’t shy away from the truth.

St Helens' Mark Percival, right, congratulates Tommy Makinson in the semi-final over Salford

St Helens’ Mark Percival, right, congratulates Tommy Makinson in the semi-final over Salford
Allan McKenzie/

“I had to take that time to rest but the rest just turned into months as the risk was so high coming back playing. I’m only 28 and want to make sure I get the best out of myself for the next five years or so. But the good thing is the knee has improved. I feel a lot better.”

And Saints stand just 80 minutes away from history. Percival, who hopes to prove his fitness for the World Cup next month, added: “I’m happy as now we’re in the Grand Final and I’ve another chance. We’re expecting the absolute best from Leeds. They are a great team with some great players. If we’re not on it, they’ll beat us.

“But we had a couple of players back last week and now we’re building on that. We’ll do anything we can to get that win.”

Percival missed the 2020 decider due to a shoulder injury but was part of Saints’ Grand Final winning side last year and in 2019 as well as the victorious 2014 team. Meanwhile, Liam Moore has been named as referee at Old Trafford for the second year running.

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