LONG-TERM CASUALTY Stevie Ward is fit and available for Leeds Rhinos selection.
But he admits he may have to wait a while longer for a return to senior action – and he is willing to play on dual-registration for Hunslet Hawks if that’s what it takes to get match fit.
Ward has not played since suffering a dislocated shoulder in Rhinos’ 44-10 win at Hull KR on April 28 last year.
Leeds kick off their First Utility Super League campaign on the same ground in two days’ time and Ward has put his hand up to play.
“I am fit and ready to go now,” said the 20-year-old, who could be included when coach Brian McDermott names his initial 19-man squad for Sunday this afternoon.
“Mac will have to make a call and I will understand if he decides to go with people who have played in pre-season.
“It might be a bit of a risk from his side of things to put me straight in, so he might decide to keep an eye on me and see how I go over the next couple of weeks.”
Ward did not feature in any of Rhinos’ three pre-season games and is too old to play for the under-19s, who begin their season against Hull KR at West Hull on Sunday (11.30pm).
With Rhinos’ dual-registration partner club Hunslet not starting their league campaign until March 2, Ward will struggle for game time.
“If things stay the same, I could play for Hunslet when they start,” he said.
“I will just keep training hard and keep motivated to try and get back in the Rhinos side.
“I would be happy to play for Hunslet if required.
“I know a few of the lads down there, who used to be at Leeds and I know Danny Maun through family as well.
“He is a good player who has gone down there. I definitely would not mind going to Hunslet and having a game there.”
But Ward, who was a member of Rhinos’ 2012 Grand Final-winning team, believes he can step in and do a job if McDermott decides to call on him without a warm-up game under his belt.
“I have got confidence in myself,” he said. “I am happy with the training I’ve done and I am confident I would be able to do a job, whenever I get a call or the team needs me to go in.”
Nerve damage meant Ward’s lay-off was longer than expected, but he does not expect any more problems with the injured shoulder.
“It’s feeling really good, really strong,” he said. “It’s been strong in the gym and also with tackling.
“I am really happy with it and the cuff scores I have been doing have been looking really good.
“I am itching to get back out there. It has been a long time since I last played and it’s funny that it was Hull KR away when I did it. It might be a blessing in disguise if I don’t turn out there, but I am not looking at that. I would love to play, but all I can do is be motivated to get back in the side and see where it takes me.”