LEEDS RHINOS star Stevie Ward reckons he is making week-on-week improvements.
The 23-year-old forward has played in Rhinos’ opening two Betfred Super League games after a knee injury restricted him to just four appearances last year.
Ward will take part in the England elite performance squad’s first get-together on Monday and says he is happy with the way his comeback has gone so far.
“I think my performances are getting better each week,” said Ward, who was involved in 70 ‘collisions’ during last week’s win at Leigh Centurions.
“I did a lot of defending and it has probably been reported that we did too much defending as a team as a whole, so I am not taking any credit for that.
“I wish we had had more ball; we shouldn’t be so careless with the ball and having to do so much defending, but the other side of that is that I am able to do more of it.
We are two games in and after the rocky off-season I had I am feeling good. My knee is feeling brilliant and I am feeling strong, so it’s all good.Leeds Rhinos’ Stevie Ward
“I am fit enough and strong enough to be doing all that defending and that’s really good for me.
“We are two games in and after the rocky off-season I had I am feeling good.
“My knee is feeling brilliant and I am feeling strong, so it’s all good.”
But Ward reckons it could take him until the summer to get to the level of performance he is targeting.
“Come half way through the season, hopefully I’ll be hitting my straps,” he said.
“I want to be doing more with the ball and asking more questions of defences.
“As a team we need more possession and field possession so that will happen simultaneously with the side and how we are playing.
“I have had differing performances over the years with injuries and absences, but I intend to get better each week.”
Salford Red Devils are the visitors tomorrow in Rhinos’ first home game of the year and Ward reckons if Leeds can make it two wins from three in Super League that would represent a satisfactory start.
He is also relishing playing in front of the famous South Stand again, after plans to demolish the terrace were put on hold.
“It will be brilliant to be back at Headingley,” he said.
“I cast my mind back to 2016 when I made my comeback, also against Salford. The South Stand was roaring and all the energy coming from the stadium was really good.
“I am looking forward to that on Friday.
“There’s not much of a better feeling, to be out there and doing that for Leeds and your family and everyone who comes and supports.
“The fans know how much it means to us to have them on our side and luckily we have got the South Stand for another year.”
Ward was in a protective boot at the start of the week after suffering a foot injury early in the win at Leigh, but is confident of being available for tomorrow.
He said: “I’ll be all right for Friday.
“I did it five minutes in last week, but I played the rest of the game.
“It’s just a case of being careful through the week and I’ll be okay.
“It’s nothing major.”