LEEDS RHINOS pack man Brett Delaney says he is fit and raring to go.
Delaney made his first appearance of the season three days ago when he was a substitute for Featherstone Rovers, on dual-registration, in their Kingstone Press Championship win at Swinton Lions.
He has been named in Rhinos’ initial 19-man squad for tomorrow’s Betfred Super League derby at in-form Castleford Tigers – and his comeback is timely for Rhinos who could be without six first-choice forwards.
Carl Ablett was yesterday banned for one game for making contact with referee Chris Campbell in last Friday’s defeat of Salford Red Devils.
And Rhinos have doubts over fellow back-rowers Jamie Jones-Buchanan (foot) and Stevie Ward (hamstring) after both were hurt in the same game.
They have been named in Rhinos’ squad, but prop Matt Garbutt has dropped out due to a pectoral muscle injury and Brett Ferres and Keith Galloway remain on the long-term casualty list.
Delaney played in three of Rhinos’ pre-season games, but “tweaked” his back in their final full-scale hit-out at Featherstone a month ago.
“I missed a couple of weeks of training, but I have been training for the last two weeks and it has been all right, so I just need to get some game time,” said the 31-year-old, who confirmed he came through last week’s match with no ill-effects.
“Unfortunately Brad Tagg got injured, so I got some good game time on Sunday.
“That was pleasing and I got through the game so that was a bonus.
“I am available, if selected. That’s down to Mac [coach Brian McDermott]. The ball is in his court.”
Rhinos decided not to rush Delaney back and he said they will be managing his fitness better this term.
He admitted to breaking down at times last year when he played while not fully fit and said: “It’s not ideal for the team or myself. I think this year we are going to be a bit smarter.”
Injuries restricted Delaney to just 15 appearances in 2016, but he insisted: “I am feeling really good. “I had a good pre-season – I only missed a couple of sessions.
“I haven’t had a pre-season since I’ve been here, with operations and stuff, so it was good to get one under my belt.
“It was a long, hard pre-season, but I will feel the benefit from it.
“I’ve got a base and hopefully I can get selected and kick on.”
Tigers are top of the early-season table and will be a huge challenge for patched-up Rhinos.
“They are a good side, Cas,” Delaney observed.
“They knocked over Warrington last weekend and it’s always a tough game when we go there. I am looking forward to it, if I get picked.”
But Delaney reckons Leeds, who are on the back of successive wins, have shown some encouraging signs in their three Super League games so far.
“Defensively we’ve been really good in the first few rounds,” Delaney said. “I am sure our attack will come and click.
“The boys have been playing well, we are off to a decent start and I hope we can continue that.”