A lot happened at Leeds Rhinos between Brett Ferres being injured and making his comeback – and he says it feels like he has returned into a different team.
The forward had minor knee surgery after Rhinos’ 26-24 loss at Wakefield Trinity on Easter Monday. He missed five games, but was back in action a week ago when Rhinos returned to Mobile Rocket Stadium, Belle Vue and this time came away with a 10-0 win.
By then Richard Agar had stepped in as interim boss after Dave Furner was sacked at the start of June and Ferres said it felt like he had “walked back different side.”
He said: “It was real chalk and cheese from the last time I played. I was coming back into a team where I think the togetherness and the attitude of the players was spot on and it was really good to see.”
Explaining the difference, Ferres added: “Everyone was talking. I think this season we have been pretty quiet and we’ve been waiting for people to do stuff, but from one to 17 everybody stood up and did their jobs and that was really important.”
Tonight’s visit of Wigan Warriors will be Agar’s fifth game in the hot seat and Ferres feels the former Hull and Wakefield Trinity coach is beginning to get his message across.
“He has been very good,” Ferres noted. “He is a great technical coach, he is very good with the little things in the game. He sees a lot of small areas and he is building our game on the small, one percenters and a lot of things the spectators don’t see.
“He has been great for the group, he has stripped it back a little bit. Obviously it wasn’t a quick fix, but the performance against Wakefield, to keep a team like them to zero in any conditions, is a massive step forward for us. Obviously the aim now is to build on that and be consistent this week.”
London’s shock win over St Helens last Sunday means Rhinos remain only two points off the bottom of the table. With Wigan a similar distance above Rhinos, tonight is crucial for both sides. Ferres said: “It is great doing it one week, but when you play poor the week after it’s not good. We are working hard and things came together nicely against Wakefield.
“We’ve had a good week’s prep’ into Wigan and it is on us now to back that up and try and keep the momentum going. Once that does happen I think it’s a bit of a different team you’ll see week-in, week-out.”
Wigan have struggled since winning last year’s Grand Final and began round 18 in eighth place on the ladder. They snatched a last-gasp 19-18 win at second-bottom Hull KR last week and Ferres warned: “They’ve got some great players and threats all over the park.
“They’ve got some big forwards, two good halves and Zak [Hardaker] is playing well at the back. They have got some quality in there, but – probably similar to ourselves – they are inconsistent.
“You just don’t know how they are going to turn up, but they are a good side, well marshalled by Lockers [Sean O’Loughlin]. There’s some threats there so we need to be on our toes this week. It is about us getting our jobs right and hopefully we can continue that run.”
Ferres came through last week’s game unscathed and confirmed his recent injury was unrelated to knee problems he has suffered in the past.
He said: “I just had a quick clean out, to get the knee sorted out. It’s my other knee, the first time I’ve ever had anything done to that one.
“I just tweaked a bit of cartilage and we thought it would be good to get it sorted out, rather than trying to wait until the end of the season.
“It was a quick procedure, it’s good to be back and I don’t think I did too bad [last week]. My defence was all right, pretty tight. I dropped a couple of balls, but it was all right all in all.”
Ferres, 33, is out of contract at the end of this season. Asked about his future, he said: “It’s just important for me to get back playing.
“A week before [rival clubs are allowed to speak to players coming out of contract] I got injured. That wasn’t good timing, but the future stuff takes care of itself.
“It is good to be back and now it’s about kicking on. Hopefully I can get a good 80 minutes under my belt this week, if selected and I can kick on and see what’s out there. I’ve not done anything, but I am quite chilled out and laid back; that sort of stuff takes care of itself. I’ve spoken to Kev [Sinfield, director of rugby] so I know where I stand and what’s what and I am feeling pretty good.”