THE INGREDIENTS are in place for Brett Ferres to have his best season for Leeds Rhinos.
The 32-year-old forward has been troubled by injuries throughout his time at Leeds, but now feels in good shape to produce his top form.
Though off-season surgery meant Ferres was unavailable for Rhinos’ Boxing Day clash with Wakefield Trinity, this has been a much happier pre-season for him than others since he joined Leeds in 2016.
“I missed my first one, I wasn’t here pre-season,” he recalled. “The second one I was with England and then I got injured and last year was pretty tough with a couple of different injuries.
“This year has been relatively injury-free, I’ve not had anything done apart from my wrist and I’ve been training. The medical staff have been fantastic, the conditioning staff have really looked after me and it’s nice to be out on the field every day and just be with the lads.”
Explaining why he did not feature at Christmas, Ferres said: “I had a routine operation, a bit of a clean out in my wrist.
I am just worrying about myself, I’m just looking forward to staying injury-free and having a good crack at it.Leeds Rhinos’ Brett Ferres
“It was nothing major, I did it [the injury] last year, but there were no real dramas with it. I am in full training now and I am really enjoying it.
“We’ve got a few new recruits and some exciting young players and it has been really good.”
Competition for places in the back-row will be intense with Trent Merrin, Carl Ablett, Stevie Ward, Liam Sutcliffe, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Cameron Smith, James Donaldson and Josh Walters all in contention alongside Ferres.
Ferres insisted: “I am just worrying about myself, I’m just looking forward to staying injury-free and having a good crack at it.
“I have got a decent pre-season under my belt so I will just worry about myself, all those boys can chomp at the bit and do what they do.”
Ferres was an established England international before injuries struck at the start of his Rhinos career.
A return to that sort of form would make him a key player this year and stressed: “I just want to get playing.
“I was happy enough when Kev [Sinfield, Rhinos’ director of rugby] came in at the back end of last year.
“The last couple of months with him, I was playing every week and I started to find a bit of form again.
“Hopefully, I can continue from there and keep cracking on. I’ve had a bit of a rough run with it, but it’s part of life. It’s the way it goes, I’ll put all that behind me now and concentrate on going forward.”
Last year was disastrous for Rhinos, who dipped perilously close to relegation, but Ferres felt he took a personal step forward.
“I really enjoyed it when Kev came in,” he added. “He really freshened me up, he spoke a lot to me and we spoke about a lot of different things and where he wanted me and my role in the team.
“Being made captain for a few games was really good and I really enjoyed that. It was quite an honour to do that as well so I certainly felt a lot better with how things were going and where we were going. For me it’s just a case of continuing on from that.”
Ferres believes Rhinos will be much more competitive this year. He said: “We are quietly confident.
“We’ve made some great signings and some of the young kids are another year older and were looking great last year in a tough situation.
“Us older heads have learned a lot from last year as well. With Dave [Furner, Rhinos’ coach] coming in he has really freshened it up and there’s a bit of clear structure in what we are doing and how we are playing and defending.
“That has certainly added to us and the staff who’ve been brought in have been great as well. It really bodes well for us. We are looking forward to it, it’s an exciting squad we’ve put together and the coaching staff as well.”