GIANT LEEDS RHINOS forward Ian Kirke has revealed how he played for the final two months of last season with broken ribs.
The injury did not heal during the off-season and Kirke required surgery, but he is hoping to be back in the early stages of the new campaign.
Rhinos begin their 2014 First Utility Super League season away to Hull KR in eight days’ time.
Kirke is one of three forwards already definitely ruled out, alongside fellow prop Andy Yates (Achilles) and second-row Jamie Jones-Buchanan (calf).
Kirke, preparing for his ninth season at Rhinos, is hoping surgery will ensure he can make an impact when he returns to the side.
“I broke some ribs in the game at London away last year,” he revealed.
“We were scratching around a bit for players and there’s not much you can do with a rib injury anyway, so it was decided I’d play until the end of the season.
“I had pain-killing injections and it wasn’t too bad, but there were times in games when the injection did wear off. That was a bit tasty, but it wasn’t too bad.”
Kirke added: “At the end of the season we had six weeks off. I gave it that six weeks and it didn’t heal properly.
“I went on a rowing machine and felt it pop again. We left it a bit longer and I ended up having a bone scan.
“A thoracic consultant had a look at it and he said there was no chance it would heal by itself, because there had been that much trauma through it.
“I had to have an operation on January 6 to put two Titanium plates across my eighth and ninth ribs, with a few screws in as well.
“Theoretically that should make it as good as new. It’s just the time it takes to heal.
“It is a bit more traumatic than breaking it yourself, because I’ve had 12 screws put in it.” Kirke admitted his enforced lay-off has been disappointing, but he was able to take part in this week’s training camp in Portugal.
“We do a lot of stuff that we are going to be doing throughout the year, so you need to be there to see it even if you can’t actually do it,” he said.
“It has given me a bit of a mental break, but it is massively frustrating.
“I was disappointed just to miss the Boxing Day game, never mind the start of the season.
“But it is just one of those things. I would rather get it done now and hopefully be back for the rest of the year than try and scratch my way through the first few games and maybe miss the middle part.
“It is better to miss a few games now than later on.”
This will be a big season for Kirke. His contract expires at the end of the campaign, though there is an option for another 12 months.
“Whether I am here next year or not I don’t know,” he said. “Hopefully I am, I would love to be.
“When you get to this point in your career you want a big season every year anyway, especially after something like this.
“If it had been worse it might have finished my career, but anything can happen so you just want to play as well as you can week-in and week-out.”