LEEDS RHINOS forward Andy Yates has pledged to put a nightmare 12 months behind him and make a Super League breakthrough in 2015.
Yates joined Rhinos from Hunslet Hawks at the end of the 2013 season, but suffered an Achilles injury in training last November, which kept him sidelined until June.
He played one comeback game on dual-registration for Hunslet, against Hemel Stags, but then had to sit out the rest of the campaign due to a ruptured biceps tendon.
But the former St Helens academy front-rower began pre-season training this week and sees the departure of props Ryan Bailey and Ian Kirke as a big opportunity for him to make his top-flight debut next year.
Yates said: “I am over my injuries now and back in full training. We started on Monday and we’ve had a tough few days. It has been hard for me personally, but I am just glad to get back.
“It has been a really bad year for me, really tough, but I have to put that behind me and focus on next season. I want to do my best for Leeds this year and for myself personally. I know how bad being injured is and that will give me even more motivation to focus on doing as well as I can.”
Yates, 24, is confident the back-to-back long-term injuries were just a coincidence and there will be no long-term after-effects. “I’m fully over both of them,” he said. “I had a scan on my arm to double-check it had healed properly and it is fine.
“I am back doing full weights and full training and I’ve had no problems. I am hoping to get a game on Boxing Day against Wakefield, try and play as well as I can and go from there.
“After last year I am just taking it one step at a time.”
Ryan Bailey’s exit to Hull KR and Ian Kirke signing with Wakefield Trinity Wildcats has reduced Rhinos’ options in the front-row.
“It is a massive opportunity for me,” Yates added. “I want to play as many games as I can next year. There’s players like Singo (Brad Singleton), Robbie Mulhern and Baldy (Jordan Baldwinson) coming through so there’s competition for places, but it’s an opportunity for me to show what I can do.
“I definitely want to get a few Super League games under my belt. When I signed for Leeds that was what I wanted. I want to play as many games as I can and do as well as I can. Having been injured makes me want it even more.”
Yates said Rhinos’ players have been worked hard during the first week of pre-season.
“Training has been full on,” he said. “It has been tough, there’s been no easing us in this year.
“We’ve done weights as usual, but we’ve been out on the pitch as well doing a bit of testing and also some skills and a bit of fitness. It has been a tough few days.”
Meanwhile, Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington says the club has “no interest” in signing Leigh half-back Ryan Brierley, despite the Championship club’s claims the player and his agent have been contacted by “someone from Leeds”.
Hetherington confirmed Kevin Sinfield (knee), Joel Moon (knee) and Brett Delaney (shoulder) have all undergone minor surgery, but will be fit for the start of the new season next February.