Leeds Rhinos' Kruise Leeming feels' fitter and stronger' than ever and can't wait for pre-season hit-out at Huddersfield Giants

Kruise Leeming feels “stronger and fitter” than at any stage in his career, but will breathe a sigh of relief on Saturday after Leeds Rhinos’ final training session ahead of the following day's pre-season game at Huddersfield Giants.

Leeming suffered a knee injury at the same stage ahead of the 2020 campaign which kept him out of action for eight months.

He eventually made his Rhinos debut against his former club, Huddersfield and went on to collect a first major honour as part of Leeds’ Challenge Cup-winning side.

Sunday's game is Rhinos’ first since their play-offs loss to Catalans Dragons exactly four months ago and the club’s only hit out before their Betfred Super League round one derby against Wakefield Trinity, at Emerald Headingley, in two weeks’ time.

Kruise Leeming training in snow earlier this pre-season. Picture by Phil Daly/Leeds Rhinos.

“It was at this time last year it happened,” Leeming said of his knee problem.

“It was just before our first friendly, the Boxing Day game.

“I am feeling loads better now, pre-season is going well and I feel really fit, really strong.

“I feel probably the strongest and fittest I’ve been so I have set myself up for a good year, hopefully - and the lads are looking fantastic as well.

Kruise Leeming. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

“I can’t wait to get into games.”

Rhinos’ pre-season has been far from straight-forward.

Training was shut down for a spell after a coronavirus outbreak, several first-choice players - including Luke Gale, Rob Lui and Jack Walker - have picked up injuries and their overseas contingent were delayed arriving in this country.

But Leeming insisted: “Having Galey out has been a big miss for us, our captain and star half-back, but the injuries have given the young lads a chance to step up and to get in the limelight a little bit.

Kruise Leeming on the ball in training. Picture by Phil Daly/LeedsRhinos/Swpix.

“It has given us a chance to look at some of the young lads and they have been great, so it has all worked out perfectly.”

Giants will be playing their first game under new coach Ian Watson, the former Salford Red Devils boss.

They will have a host of new signings on show, while Zane Tetevano and King Vuniyayawa will pull on a Leeds jersey for the first time

Leeming joined Rhinos at the end of 2019, but has never played there against Huddersfield.

He said: “It is going to be different, being in the away changing rooms for the first time.

“It is something I am going to have to do and get over, but I am looking forward to it.

“They are a totally different team to the one I played in, but still wearing the same badge and colours.

“It is not really a factor I am thinking too much about.

“It is a game and I have been at Leeds for coming up to two years, so I am calling Leeds my home now.”

Rhinos will be missing some big names, including several who could feature against Wakefield, but Leeming insisted it is important to get some game time under their belts, against opposition from outside the club.

“It is needed,” he said.

“That’s what friendlies are for, so we are looking forward to it.

“I think it is the right time, there’s only so much training you can do before you need a game.

“You need that competitive edge, to go up against opposition where you don’t know what they are going to do, because that’s what it’s like in Super League.

“I can’t wait to play now.”

Match action will come thick and fast once the real business starts, but Leeming pledged: “We are ready for it.

“Pre-season has been tailored so we have got a lot of metres in us, a lot of running.

“It has been tailored for the fast pace games are going to come at us, so we are ready, we are robust and we are looking forward to it.

“It can’t come quick enough for us now.”

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