AUSTRALIAN FORWARD Mitch Achurch is delighted to be back on duty for Leeds Rhinos, but admitted his joy was overshadowed by the result in Perpignan.
Achurch came off the bench in Leeds’ 32-28 defeat three days ago for his first senior game since the Super-8s loss on the same ground last September.
“The result’s the most important thing,” he stressed. “But for me personally, after spending a couple of weeks in the Championship, it is nice to be back with the boys and I thought I had a good stint. I didn’t play very many minutes, but hopefully this week I can go again.”
The big Aussie has been dogged by injuries since joining Leeds ahead of the 2013 season and that bad luck continued during his dual-registration spell at Featherstone Rovers, ruling him out of the Dacia World Club Challenge.
He played in Rovers’ opening two Kingstone Press Championship games, but revealed: “The week before [the world title match] I played in the Championship and picked up two fractured ribs. It is one of those things where you can needle them up and carry on.
“I could have got through, but I would not have been 100 per cent. It was unfortunate I missed that game; it would have been nice to play against some of my old team-mates at the Cowboys. But I missed that one and it was actually good timing, because my fiance had a kid the next day!”
Baby Isla-Belle and mum Kimberley are both doing well and Achurch admitted he is looking forward to spending time with his new family after spending most of last Friday and Saturday abroad.
He said: “It was one of those things: I was hoping to get in the team for Catalans, but at the same time I didn’t want to leave my new-born.”
Despite an emotional few days, Achurch made an impact in his first game of the season, bursting down the right flank to set up a long-range try for Liam Sutcliffe.
“I was fresh on the field, so I had a little bit of pace left in me at that stage,” he said. “They are the sort of things I can do – I just have to do them more regularly.”
Rhinos’ dual-registration link with Featherstone is controversial. Leeds have opted not to reform a reserve team, preferring players who are not in the senior side to be offered to their Championship neighbours. So far Ash Handley and Achurch have both stepped up from dual-registration spells straight into Super League. Jordan Baldwinson has also played for Rovers this year and was Leeds’ 18th man in France.
Achurch said: “To be fair, playing at Featherstone, it is 80 minutes. They are big fellas down there and it’s a tough competition. There’s some blokes in that competition who should be playing Super League really.
“It was a good couple of weeks there. They are a good bunch of blokes and if I was there again I wouldn’t be complaining. It was a good stint, but hopefully onwards and upwards with Rhinos.”
As Achurch has said consistently throughout his time at Leeds, his main objective now is to string a run of games together.
“That is the issue with me,” he conceded.
“If I can get five or six games together I can start playing well, then fingers crossed no injuries and it could be anything for me. That’s the plan once again.”
Rhinos play host to Huddersfield Giants – the only other Super League team yet to get off the mark – on Friday and Achurch reckons Leeds are not far from turning things around.
He said: “We have a lot to work on at the moment, but so does every other team in Super League.
“It is who does it at the end of the year, not the beginning.”
Meanwhile, Achurch and former Leeds player and now part-time conditioner Ian Kirke have opened their own gym, Implexus, off Pickering Street, in Leeds.
Rhinos are training there after their Kirkstall base was destroyed in the Boxing Day flood.