VETERAN LEEDS Rhinos forward Jamie Jones-Buchanan reckons foundations are being laid for a better season next year.
Rhinos – who finished ninth in Super League 2016 – are three weeks into pre-season and Jones-Buchanan says preparations have gone up a level.
Leeds already have almost a full squad in for training, which began three weeks earlier this year than in 2015.
And with the use of improved facilities at Kirkstall, following last December’s disastrous flood, Jones-Buchanan reckons they have made a flying start.
“It’s brilliant,” the 35-year-old, who made his first team debut in 1999, said of Rhinos’ preparations so far.
“I think we are making the most of the new facilities and everything’s in place to make us as well prepared as we can be to compete with the best in Super League come February.
“Everyone’s buying into what we are doing and it’s good to have the new players here.
“They are settling in really well and the enthusiasm and pace has really picked up.
“Everybody’s got big smiles, but we are working hard.
“We are doing double days so everyone’s going home tired, but we have got a lot more volume than we’ve had in the past – even before seasons when we did really well – so it has been an excellent three weeks.”
Rhinos have added just two players – Jack Ormondroyd and Cory Aston from Championship clubs Featherstone Rovers and Sheffield Eagles – to their squad, but Jones-Buchanan insisted the playing group is good enough to challenge for honours.
“I think the potential is definitely in there,” he said.
“The key is to unlock that potential with what we are doing.
“Training and the way we look at games has really evolved.
“We are certainly looking at games in a more advanced way than I have ever experienced.
“The next generation of players is going to lift the bar and hopefully we will see a lift in the game in general.
“The way technology is used is really smart and it is advancing all the time. We can review training sessions now like we do games.”
Jones-Buchanan missed Rhinos’ opening five games this year due to injury, but was ever-present after that.
He admitted he is relishing getting a full pre-season under his belt and feels he can still make an impact in Super League, despite his veteran status.
“I am feeling good,” he said.
“I am probably feeling better now than I did in 2008-2009 when I had some knee problems.
“I am probably half a stone heavier now than I was a couple of years ago and that seems to have added a bit more longevity, so I feel great.
“I can’t do as many extras, I can’t go home and train again like I used to, but I seem to have a lot more energy and I feel fresh.
“I don’t know how the season will pan out and whether my game will change or my minutes might get shorter, but I am excited and I’m looking forward to it. I feel stronger than I have ever done.”
Jones-Buchanan is out of contract at the end of 2017 and he has not yet decided if that will be his final season.
“I hope whatever I do next will be at Leeds and involved in rugby league,” he said.