INJURED LEEDS Rhinos star Liam Sutcliffe has taken a major step forward on the road to recovery.
Sutcliffe has resumed running, three months after suffering season-ending knee damage.
The 20-year-old stand-off underwent surgery after rupturing an anterior cruciate ligament in Rhinos’ home First Utility Super League win over Hull on June 21.
The injury was a huge setback for Sutcliffe, who had missed only four games this season up to that point, but he is confident of being fit for the start of the 2016 campaign.
“I’m feeling good,” Sutcliffe said of his recovery.
“My re-hab is going all right. I managed to get on the AlterG [anti-gravity treadmill] for the first time last week.
“That was a bit of a weird experience, I’d never been on one before and I wasn’t sure how it works.
“It is a treadmill, but you get strapped into it and it lifts you up, so you are on your tiptoes. It calculates your body weight and you can set it to what percentage you want to run at.
“The first time, I ran at 30 per cent and went to 40 and the next time I started at 40 and went to 50. I will be doing that three times a week and hopefully I’ll be running on a pitch in two or three weeks’ time.”
Sutcliffe, who is hoping to be Rhinos’ first-choice stand-off next year following Kevin Sinfield’s switch to rugby union, said he can see light at the end of the tunnel.
“Now I’ve started running I think it will go pretty quickly,” he said.
“I’ve only been able to do watt-bike and weights for the last couple of months and it’s good to be able to do a bit of running.
“I can’t wait to run on the pitch for real.”
The knee injury robbed Sutcliffe of a second Challenge Cup winner’s medal and he has had to watch from the sidelines as Rhinos have struggled following last month’s Wembley victory.
“I am looking to be team training in the back end of December or early January,” he said.
“Hopefully by the time we go to Florida [for a January training camp] I will be fully into team training.
“I’m not sure what the idea is with friendlies yet, but I am hoping to get one in before the start of the season.”
Sutcliffe is confident there will be no lasting effects – physically or mentally – from the injury.
Team-mates who have made a full recovery from a similar setback include Carl Ablett, Danny McGuire, Kallum Watkins and Jamie Peacock.
He added: “I am fine with it. When I started running I wasn’t sure if I’d be trying to protect it, but I was running as normal – or as normal as I could on the machine – so I don’t think it’s going to bother me. It is my first major injury and I wasn’t sure how to handle it at first, but the other boys have helped me out and I’ll be ready to go next year.
“I have got all these months to make myself bigger, stronger, faster and fitter and that’s what I am looking to do.”