A NEW role has revived Leeds Rhinos’ Australian forward Brett Delaney.
The former Parramatta and Gold Coast man is on course to reach his double century of appearances for Rhinos later this month, despite a series of injury setbacks.
Delaney missed the first three games of the current campaign after suffering a dislocated kneecap in Leeds’ opening match of the 2016 Qualifiers, at Featherstone Rovers.
He played in 11 of the next 14, but then sustained a freak double injury – medial ligament damage to both knees in the same incident – against Warrington in May.
That kept him out of action until August, but he is hoping to make a fourth successive appearance when Rhinos visit Castleford Tigers tonight.
“It is going good,” Delaney said of his comeback.
“Obviously I am getting a few more minutes under my belt each week and I am slowly getting there.
“I was out for 10 weeks so I wasn’t going to get back to my best straight away, but I am just building my game slowly and I am confident now.
“It has obviously been a frustrating middle part of the year, but now it is done with it is the business end and I am glad I am back on the pitch.”
Delaney, 31, has been a substitute in all his three games since returning from injury and for 10 of his 15 appearances this year.
That is a change of pace for the three-time Grand Final winner, who has spent most of his Leeds career in the starting lineup.
Only 29 or his 196 games for Rhinos have come off the bench, but he said: “I am enjoying it.
“It is a new role, I have been starting all my career and this is different for me.
“I will do anything to play. If I come off the bench or starting it doesn’t really matter to me, at least I am out there, having an impact on the team and enjoying myself.”
Delaney’s 200th game for Leeds could be a play-off semi-final on Friday, September 29.
“There’s three games to the semis and I’m glad I’ve come back now,” he said.
“Since I’ve come back I have been all right.
“I am strapped up, to give a bit more support to my knees.
“Hopefully that [the strapping] will be off in the next couple of weeks and that will give me a bit more confidence.”
In terms of match fitness, Delaney said: “It’s getting there.
“I got 40 minutes last week. It is different coming off the bench, it takes ages to get your second breath.
“It is a different sort of feeling. You can’t just dip your toe in, you have got to come on and make an impact. You can’t just ease your way into a game, but it is coming along. It is getting there and hopefully I will be back to full fitness soon.”
The biggest test so far of Delaney’s return will come at Castleford tonight.
Rhinos’ last visit to the Jungle, six months ago, ended in a 66-10 defeat, one of seven successive losses to Tigers.
Assessing the threat posed by Castleford, Delaney observed: “They throw the ball around a lot. They are a very attacking side, they attack really well, they have got some very good players and they play really well together as a collective group.
“They have got a good method going and they are a tough team.”
Leeds need one more win to seal second place in the table and a home semi-final, but Delaney said there is more riding on the game than that.
“They have beaten us all year so it is a massive one for us,” he said.
“We want to beat them, they are the top team this year so we want to turn them over.
“The first one against them this year was bad and we don’t want that to happen again.
“We have to turn up at Cas and play and be confident. We have got some bodies back now and we are doing all right.
“We had a scratchy one last week [a 38-26 win over Hull], but we have put that one to bed and moved on.”
Delaney said March’s drubbing at Castleford has not been mentioned in the build-up to tonight.
“That’s all forgotten,” he said. “As far as I am concerned it is dead and buried.
“That is the least of our worries. You don’t think about that when you get into the game.”
Delaney insisted he has not studied the situation in the table either.
He added: “We spoke last week about getting a win and going five points clear of Hull, but that [the table] will take care of itself.
“We have just got to go out there and perform. If we get a home semi’ that will be great so our aim is to finish second so we won’t take our foot off the gas just yet.
“We just want to win, like we do every game – whether it’s Cas or anyone else.”