LONG-TERM Leeds Rhinos casualty Stevie Ward insists he has no concerns about returning to the scene of his injury.
Rhinos’ management are hopeful Ward could be available for the Super League opener at Hull KR on Sunday, February 16.
The 20-year-old stand-off/back-rower has not played since suffering a dislocated shoulder in Leeds’ previous trip to Craven Park, last April.
Ward admitted the game in East Yorkshire is “around the time” he is hoping to be back in action, but stressed he wouldn’t have a problem facing the same opponents on the same pitch as his previous ill-fated appearance.
“It is just a game of rugby league,” Ward stated. “Once I get back there is going to be no issues with playing there again.”
Leeds have two trial games before the Hull KR clash, at Hunslet Hawks on January 26 and home to London Broncos in Ryan Bailey’s testimonial five days later.
Ward is not revealing exactly when he expects to be back in action, but said: “I have got a goal set in my mind, but I don’t want to express that yet because I don’t know how realistic it is.
“I have something to work towards, but with the season as close as it is it is going to come up very quickly.
“I wanted to have a goal in my mind to work towards with my diet and training and the mental aspects – so I can think positively about that.
“Hopefully it will all come together and I can get back on the field.”
The comeback will move closer when Ward begins to take part in contact training sessions, within the next few days.
“I am doing some cuff tests, trying to get my left [shoulder] the same as my right,” he said.
“There’s still a bit of a difference and that’s the only problem. When that comes level I am free to get into contact.
“It is just about doing stuff like that in the gym and extra re-hab at home and making sure everything is okay for when I do contact.”
It has been a long, tough road back, but Ward can now see light at the end of the tunnel.
“It is feeling better,” he said. “Before there were aches and pains, but there’s a lot less now.
“I feel more agile. Before Christmas the season seemed a bit far away, but now it’s just around the corner.
“It comes up quick and that’s the main thing, I can see the season coming up and there’s something to work towards.”
Ward’s lay-off allowed him to branch out into a new career as a music producer.
The South Stand Music CD – the brainchild of Ward and friend Dom Smith – hit the shops before Christmas and has sold more than 1,000 copies. Sold in aid of the Lymphoma Association and Leeds Rugby Foundation – the CD features fans’ chants, plus contributions from several Rhinos players.
“It gave me a focus and a bit of drive and something for me to worry about and think about through the day,” Ward said.
“The lads are all behind it and everyone’s happy I’ve done it. It is something I am happy I’ve had chance to do and it’s great to see money going to charity and people enjoying it and the fans lapping it up.”