BACK-IN-BUSINESS prop forward Andy Yates is a man on a mission.
The 24-year-old has set himself a target of breaking into Leeds Rhinos’ first team before the end of the season.
Yates is now fully fit and could play his first game of 2014 when Rhinos’ partner club Hunslet Hawks take on visitors Hemel Stags in Kingstone Press Championship One tomorrow.
The former St Helens academy player joined Rhinos from Hunslet at the end of last season, but suffered an Achilles injury early in pre-season training and has endured a frustrating wait to show what he can do.
He is now back in full training with Rhinos, has put in several sessions with Hunslet – where he made 72 appearances from 2011-2013 – and will play off the bench tomorrow, if he reports no ill-effects from their final team run.
“I can’t wait,” admitted Yates, who had impressed Rhinos’ coaching staff before his injury.
“It has been seven months now and it is frustrating watching the games. You just want to get out there and play.
“I have trained with Hunslet a few times and I just want to get out there and, hopefully, get a few games under my belt to get my match fitness up.”
Rhinos’ coaching staff will be keeping a close eye on how Yates fares with Hunslet and he reckons he is in better shape now than before he was hurt.
“The Achilles is fully healed,” he said. “I feel just as fast as I was before and I feel a lot stronger, so it is going well.
“The fitness coaches and physio have been doing a lot of fitness and strength work with me, strengthening the leg up and trying to get it a bit more flexible.
“All that has benefited me and I am feel like I am running better. It will take a few games to get back into it, but hopefully once I have had a few games I will feel better than I did before.”
Yates believes making his Super League debut this year is a realistic aim.
“Playing for Hunslet I want to stand out and play as well as I can,” he said. “Hopefully then I can play a few games this season for Rhinos.”
Championship One is the bottom tier of the British game, but Yates insisted he won’t be treating it lightly, particularly after so long on the sidelines.
“I am not going into it taking it for granted I will play well,” he stressed.
“I just want to go into it, play my best and try and do as well as possible.
“It is an opportunity to get my fitness up and get ready for playing, eventually, for Leeds.
“It is a good time to be coming back and my goal is to play for Leeds.
“Playing for Hunslet is going to help me get my match fitness back and hopefully I can help them.
“It was a shock when my injury happened, but since then all I have been thinking about is getting back fit as soon as possible and playing for Leeds.
“That’s what I want to do.”
Meanwhile, Rhinos’ medical staff are checking on forward Chris Clarkson, who left the ground after Thursday’s defeat by Huddersfield Giants with a foot in a protective boot.