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Page last updated at 05:22 GMT, Sunday, 3 October 2010 06:22 UK

Wigan's Pat Richards out with Achilles tendon tear

Pat Richards (right) and Harrison Hansen hold the Grand Final trophy aloft
Richards (right) returned to the Old Trafford pitch for Wigan's celebrations

Wigan's Pat Richards is set to be sidelined for at least six months after tearing his Achilles tendon.

This season's Super League Man of Steel limped down the tunnel just before half-time in Saturday's Grand Final against St Helens at Old Trafford.

"I'll be five or six months out. But, at the start of the day, if I'd known that would happen and we'd still end up winning, I'd have taken it," he said.

The prolific Australian, 28, had landed two kicks before being forced off.

But, despite one of his smallest individual points hauls of the season, Richards admitted afterwards that his pain had been eased by Wigan's 22-10 victory - the club's first Grand Final win in 12 years.

"I could have done this last week, or last month and ended up missing this," Richards told BBC Sport, "so I'll just take what we've got now.

"I've played every week this season with these boys, we couldn't have played any better tonight and I couldn't be happier.

"I've worked so hard this season to achieve this and now I can put it alongside the one I won down under."

The prolific goal-kicking winger was crowned Man of Steel on Monday, beating Adrian Morley and team mate Sam Tomkins to the accolade.

But, proud though he is of that feat, he was even happier to be part of a winning team again - just as he was at West Tigers in 2005, when he scored a try to help them beat North Queensland Cowboys 30-16 to win the NFL Grand Final.

It was following Tigers' win that Richards took up one of three offers to come to England by signing for Wigan.

And, although he has enjoyed individual success, the Warriors have all too frequently fallen short.

The culture has changed. We've based our whole season on our defence and making the opposition think they can't crack you.

Pat Richards

In his first season, Wigan were almost relegated, they were then twice beaten Challenge Cup semi-finalists in 2007 and 2009 and also twice reached the last four stage of the Super League play-offs.

But they have turned it round this season under new coach Michael Maguire.

And Richards puts it down to a defensive structure that saw the Warriors ship just 411 points in 27 Super League games this season, the best in the competition - and massively down on the 551 they leaked the year before.

"The culture has changed," said Richards. "We've based our whole season on our defence and making the opposition think they can't crack you.

"That's been the background of our year and why we've been so successful."

To further unnerve next season's opponents, Wigan have already strengthened by signing of three Maguire's former Melbourne Storm players, Australian second row Ryan Hoffman, New Zealand prop Jeff Lima and New South Wales half-back Brett Finch.

"They're absolute quality players," promises Richards. "But we'll deal with that next year."

Instead, Richards is more preoccupied with the long-term target of returning from his long winter lay-off ahead of schedule - and being fit in time for the start of next season.

"That's the goal now," he said. "I was coming out of our end, pushed off and just felt it go. I knew immediately that it was gone.

"But we've got a great medical team at Wigan and I'll be back."

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see also
St Helens 10-22 Wigan Warriors
02 Oct 10 |  My Club
Super League Grand Final as it happened
02 Oct 10 |  Rugby League
Richards wins Man of Steel award
27 Sep 10 |  Rugby League
Trio nominated for Man of Steel
16 Sep 10 |  Rugby League
Warriors sign up Melbourne trio
19 Jul 10 |  Wigan

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