Leeds Rhinos: Recovering Achurch ‘knocked out’ by strength of support

Mitch Achurch
Mitch Achurch
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FORWARD MITCH Achurch is hoping to be given the all-clear for his second comeback in as many games.

The Aussie made his first Leeds Rhinos appearance for more than two months against Wigan Warriors seven days ago, but lasted just minutes before being stretchered off with concussion.

If he passes medical tests he is likely to get another chance tonight, away to Hull and he is hoping this return goes more successfully than the previous one.

“It was a bit scary, but it was just one of those things,” he said of last week’s incident.

“It was just unfortunate, I must have got caught in the spot on my head that’s like a switch - I was just out.

“I don’t remember too much, I just remember turning up at the game, having a word with Mac [coach Brian McDermott] and all of a sudden I was in the ambulance. I have watched it back and it was just unlucky.”

Achurch has been plagued by a series of injuries since joining Rhinos from Penrith Panthers ahead of the 2013 season.

Of the latest setback, he said: “It’s frustrating.

“If it was one of those injuries like a broken finger or a broken nose, you can tough it out.

“But I needed to get some game time, so to wake up in hospital was pretty frustrating and I couldn’t do anything about it.”

Achurch has been named in Rhinos’ initial 19-man squad for tonight’s fixture in the First Utility Super-8s.

But he will need to pass a head test and convince Rhinos’ medical staff he is fit to play before being able to take a place in the side.

“I feel all right,” he stressed. “I don’t think there’s any reason why I shouldn’t pass [the head test].

“To be honest, I came around pretty quickly once I was in hospital.

“I didn’t have too many symptoms, so it was just one of those things.”

The game was held up as Achurch received treatment on the field.

He was taken off by stretcher, to applause from all sides of the ground and he said: “I was a bit overwhelmed by the support I got, to be fair.

“All weekend there were people tweeting me and getting in contact to make sure I was all right.

“It must have looked pretty nasty.

“I didn’t realise until I watched it back that I was on the ground for 10 minutes, or something like that, before they dragged me off.

“It looked a lot worse than I think it was – I was just sparked out.”

Achurch has said several times all he wants is an injury-free run and that ambition is even stronger after last week.

“I have heard the words ‘unluckiest man in rugby league’ a few times,” he admitted.

“That is how I feel. It is really disappointing, because I feel like I have been training really well for the last 10 weeks, after my surgery.

“If anything, I knocked off a couple of weeks and came back early after surgery – so to only play three minutes was pretty frustrating.”

Achurch knows his hopes of a first appearance in a major final rest on him playing tonight - and proving to McDermott he is fully fit and in form.

The 27-year-old played in Leeds’ 2013 World Club Challenge loss to Melbourne Storm, but was not selected for last year’s Challenge Cup showpiece.

“I won’t even be in the frame to be picked if I don’t play this week,” he admitted.

“They have been really cautious with me and they are making sure I am all right, but if I get the head test out of the way and I get the all-clear, then it’s happy days.

“Then I have just got to go out there and try and prove my worth, so I can get that spot for Wembley.

“It [the injuries] is getting pretty frustrating now. It is frustrating being on the sideline, but it’s more frustrating knowing I still haven’t reached any potential that I can reach at Leeds.

“Any time I start putting a few good games together, something happens and it halts that progress.

“I am desperate to get on the field now.”

Tonight’s game is a big one for Leeds in their bid for a first league leaders’ shield since 2009.

“We’re definitely not going to take our foot off the pedal leading into Wembley,” Achurch insisted.

“We did that last year, we rested a lot of players and played a lot of young blokes against London and we saw the result there.

“We’re taking this one pretty seriously and we really want to stride out in front in the league, then that gives us a bit of confidence going to Wembley.

“If we are four or six points in front in the league going into Wembley, we’re going to be pretty confident.”

Hull: from Abdull, Downs, Fash, Green, Hadley, Houghton, Lineham, Logan, Michaels, Minichiello, Naughton, Paea, Paleaaesina, Rankin, Shaul, Sneyd, Talanoa, Watts, Westerman.

Leeds Rhinos: from Hardaker, Briscoe, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Peacock, Ablett, Sinfield, S Ward, Achurch, Cuthbertson, Singleton, Keinhorst, Walters, R Ward, Golding, Handley, Garbutt

Referee: Joe Cobb (Leigh).

Kick-off: Tonight, 8pm

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