LEEDS RHINOS’ no13 is confident of being fit for the start of the season – and says he has learned a valuable lesson.
Stevie Ward suffered a serious knee injury in the final game of the 2015 Super-8s and was sidelined for all but the last four matches of the following campaign.
Despite that, he was included in England’s squad for the Four Nations, but did not play and has revealed he suffered a setback with his troublesome knee.
Ward, who had three operations on the knee plus minor shoulder surgery during his layoff, has just resumed training at Leeds, and said: “With England, because I did too much too soon it flared up a bit.
“It was nothing massive, just swelling.
“I took a step back and I’m just easing into things now.
“My lesson is being naive and going 100 per cent when it’s probably not due.
“I’ve had a few of those already.
“I will be right for the start of the season, but rugby league players, we need the drive in us to constantly go for it and go 100 per cent.
“That’s our nature, it’s what we do in every aspect of life.
“I need to be conscious of that and if my knee’s sore – or whatever it may be – just realise that, instead of thinking ‘I’m a rugby league player, I’ll bash through walls and do anything’.
“It is a case of being conscious and aware of what’s going on with my body.”
Rhinos have four more trial games before their Betfred Super League opener at St Helens on Thursday, February 9, beginning at Hunslet on Sunday.
Ward is hoping to play at least once in pre-season, and said: “At this stage I’m just getting into the swing of things.
“I am not doing too much thinking into what’s in the future, that hasn’t served me too well in the past.
“I will do whatever I am doing at this minute and concentrate on that.
“But I am really ready to crack on and I’m really looking forward to the routine of backing up the games and doing all that.
“It seems like it’s been a while with everything that’s gone on in the off-season, so it’ll be nice to just crack on with the season and get firing away.”
Ward was the only member of the England squad not to get a game in last autumn’s tournament, but insisted: “It was just good to be in the frame, to be around everyone else and to know where I can improve in that kind of environment.
“Hopefully I can take that into this year.
“It was an invaluable experience, which wasn’t expected.”
Ward has been praised for speaking openly about his struggle with depression during last year’s long spell on the sidelines and his work to raise awareness of lifestyle issues through the online Mantality magazine. Pop star Boy George is among those to contact Ward on social media and the pair have spoken several times.
The Rhinos man said: “I’ll invite him to a game, I’ll make sure he gets to one at some point!”
Meanwhile, Rhinos’ new Australian signing Matt Parcell is due to arrive in England on Friday.
Parcell will not be considered for Sunday’s game, but could make his first appearance in Ryan Hall’s testimonial match against Hull KR at Headingley five days later.