BACK-IN-BUSINESS FORWARD Brett Delaney has one simple wish for this year: to get through without needing surgery.
Delaney made his latest comeback a week ago as a substitute in Leeds Rhinos’ 18-6 defeat at Warrington Wolves and has been named in the initial squad for tonight’s visit of Wigan Warriors.
The appearance at HJ Stadium was Delaney’s first game for Leeds since last year’s play-off defeat by Catalans Dragons and only his second match at any level, after a run-out on dual-registration for Hunslet Hawks the previous week.
Delaney underwent knee surgery in the off-season and was then hampered by an ankle problem and admitted he is desperate to get through this year with his limbs intact.
“I would like to go a season without an operation – I really would,” he said.
“I don’t think I’ve done that before, not in the last four years. I’ve not had an off-season.
“That’s the way the cookie crumbles, it’s not touch football, it’s tackle so you can’t really plan things, but I would like to get a run injury-free and just training and running around with the boys. I just want to keep building.”
Delaney is lacking match fitness, but said he feels good after coming through last week unscathed.
“It has been frustrating,” Delaney said of the past six months.
“I had some complications after the knee op. Before Christmas I had a couple of injections in it.
“That was going good, then in Florida (on Rhinos’ pre-season camp) I went over on my ankle so I had to go back and sort that out.
“That put me out another month before I was back re-habbing my knee.
“It has been a long six months so it was good to get out there with the boys last week.
“Unfortunately it wasn’t the result we wanted, but personally it was good to be back out on the paddock again, all that hard work paying off.
“Over there (on the pitch) is where it matters.”
Delaney admitted he would have preferred more games with Hunslet before his Rhinos comeback, which was brought forward when Mitch Achurch suffered a knee injury in the win at Hull two weeks ago.
“I would have liked another couple of games,” he said.
“But you can’t really do that, can you?
“If selected, I’ll just play. It’s not ideal, but it’s good to get back after a long six months in that gym, on my own. It has paid off.”
Delaney played for Hawks in their Kingstone Press Championship fixture at Bradford Bulls and said the dual-registration system worked well in his case.
“I don’t think everyone understands it,” Delaney said of the rule which allows Super League clubs to play for a lower division team without having to go on loan.
“I copped a bit of flack about it, but it has been my fourth op on the same knee and six months is a long time out.
“Just to go straight back into grade would be tough, because we don’t have a reserve grade.
“It is great Baz (Hawks coach Barry Eaton) gave me a chance.
“I only played half a game, but I felt really good last Friday.
“And having that 40 minutes under my belt the week before definitely helped.
“If I had gone into the Warrington game with no game under my belt, after six months it would have been a big ask to jump straight back into first grade.
“I missed all the trials, so that system’s good. For me personally, it helped a lot.
“But people have got to understand the reasons and I don’t think they do.”
Delaney has been thrown in at the deep end, with the first three matches of his comeback being Warrington away, Wigan at home and then a trip to Catalans Dragons a week tomorrow, followed by the busy Easter period.
Of tonight’s showdown, he said: “Wigan are a good side and they will be up for it.
“It will be a big game. We will be looking to get back on the scoreboard and get a good win.
“They are a tough team, but we got some positives out of last week.
“Our defence was all right and we’ll have to bring that into this week and get the ball rolling again.
“We weren’t far off last week, we conceded a couple of kicks and if we’d got that one for Singo (which was ruled out by the video referees) it could have been a different ball game.
“We need to be better in attack, but that will come. The conditions weren’t ideal, but we have to move on to this week.”
Rhinos are back at Headingley after successive away matches and Delaney added: “It’s always good to play in front of the home fans and I’m looking forward to it.
“Then we’ve got to go to Catalans and then it’s Easter, so we’re looking to get a few wins.”
Leeds Rhinos from: Hardaker, Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall, Sutcliffe, McGuire, Cuthbertson, Aiton, Peacock, S Ward, Ablett, Jones-Buchanan, Delaney, Singleton, Burrow, Yates, Golding, Sinfield.
Wigan Warriors from: Bateman, Bowen, Burgess, Clubb, C Farrell, L Farrell, Gelling, Greenwood, Hampshire, Manfredi, McIlorum, Mossop, Patrick, Sarginson, Smith, Tautai, J Tomkins, L Tomkins, Williams.
Referee: Richard Silverwood.
Kick-off: Tonight, 8pm.