VETERAN FORWARD Jamie Jones-Buchanan is hoping to make his comeback when Leeds Rhinos play host to Salford Red Devils on Friday.
And he insists rumours he is coming to the end of his playing career have been greatly exaggerated.
The 33-year-old made his Rhinos debut in 1999 and is the club’s second longest-serving player, after captain Kevin Sinfield.
He has more than 420 Leeds appearances under his belt, but has endured a stop-start season due to a troublesome hamstring injury.
Jones-Buchanan played in Rhinos’ opening seven games, before a five-match injury lay-off. He returned for one match and had another three out before making his most recent appearance off the bench in the Magic Weekend loss to Wigan Warriors, on May 30.
He has sat out Leeds’ last six games, but said: “I’m hoping to be back this week.
“I have been looking at Salford since I did it again at the Magic Weekend. It was pretty bad on the scan so I had to give it the best chance to heal.
“I will see how it goes this week, but I started running last week. I will make sure I get through the stringent tests the physios want before I go back out there, but I am keen to get back. I am missing it.”
Jones-Buchanan said he has heard rumours the injury will finish his career, but that is far from the truth. He said: “I was asked three times last week if I had retired!
“It has been a tough year mentally and it is good I have got a lot of other things in my life, to keep my mind focused – not least my faith.
“But it is part of rugby league, being 33 is a bit different to being 23.
“People are always asking ‘is it near the end’? Especially when JP (Jamie Peacock), Kev (Sinfield) and Kylie (Leuluai) are leaving.
“But for me, the miles on the clock aren’t anywhere as near as long as those guys.
“The odd things is, when I am actually playing I feel as good as I ever have done in my whole career. I just want to get back and have a few more seasons.”
Looking ahead, Jones-Buchanan stressed: “I would love to do at least another two years.
“But it is not about Jamie Jones-Buchanan, it is about the Leeds Rhinos team.
“In whatever capacity, whether it be off the field or as a player, I want to keep being part of this club.
“But I certainly don’t think I have finished my playing years yet. I would like to get at least two more years, I will take one game at a time, but God willing, that will happen.
“But I can only control the things I can control.”
Leeds have no reserve team, but Jones-Buchanan is confident he can handle returning straight into Super League. He added: “I have always joked I have made a career out of being distinctly average for long periods of time.
“But if I have got one strength, it’s my fitness. I never stop training hard, even when I’m not playing.
“In the last two games I’ve played I haven’t felt any fitness problems whatsoever.
“I’ve played enough games now to know where I need to be to cope, so I am not too fussed about that side of things.
“I just want to rip in and hopefully get a game against Salford. Brian McDermott [Rhinos’ coach] is very smart in the way he rotates players, but there’s some big games coming up.
“It’s not just about playing in the big games, but some of the lads have been ever-present and done some really hard yards and I want to pick up a bit of the slack myself and help those players out.”