LONG-TERM LEEDS Rhinos casualty Brett Ferres insists he feels ready for a return to action.
The 31-year-old forward has not played since Rhinos’ Grand Final win over Castleford Tigers last October, but is included in the initial 19-man squad for tomorrow afternoon’s Betfred Super League game at his former club Huddersfield Giants.
He has been training for several weeks, after undergoing knee surgery last autumn and says he is “getting there” as his long wait nears an end.
“I’ve had a good couple of months, working hard,” Ferres said. “I got on the alter-g [anti-gravity treadmill] for two or three weeks and got some good sessions on there.
“I’ve been back running now for a fair few weeks so it has been a good opportunity for me to get some k’s [kilometres] under my belt and start running properly rather than just jumping back in and being expected to play and, on the back of that, put a performance in as well.
“It has been good, it has been quite refreshing in that I’ve been able to train and I’ve started linking quite a few days together now as well, which is nice.”
Ferres paid tribute ton Rhinos’ management for not rushing him back before he is ready, despite their injury crisis in the pack. He said: “We are struggling, which is not great. We’ve got a few men down and we are certainly light in the forwards, but there’s been no pressure, which has been good.
“We’ve got some fantastic staff.
“Andy [Barker] and Gareth [Robinson], the physios, have been brilliant.
“Kirkey [conditioner Ian Kirke] has done wonders with me. He has got me strong and fit now, and Dan [Weaving], the GPS man, has been fantastic.
“He has devised a plan where I’ve done what I’ve needed to do so I am ready when I return to play. The backroom staff have done a fantastic job.”
Ferres battled through his first year at Leeds, in 2016, despite a persistent groin problem, but made only 15 appearances last season after suffering a knee injury midway through the campaign.
An attempted comeback in Rhinos’ Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final loss to Hull backfired – leading to another long spell on the sidelines – and he has been determined to avoid a repeat of that setback.
“It was tough last year,” he admitted. I will never say no to playing and if Mac [coach Brian McDermott] asked me to play I would say ‘yes’ straight away. It is difficult. It is hard to say ‘I need another week or another couple of weeks to do this’.
“But I think I am pretty much ready to play now, whenever they want me to play. I’ve done whatever’s necessary, now it’s just a matter of training and backing it up. I’ve trained the last two weeks with the boys and it has been good; I’ve never really had that since I joined Leeds.”
McDermott will select for tomorrow from the 17 beaten by Castleford Tigers last week, plus Ferres and Brad Dwyer. Alex Sutcliffe will return following shoulder surgery when Leeds Rhinos under-19s face Castleford Tigers at Stanningley tonight (7pm).
Rhinos are without Harvey Whiteley who suffered a broken leg against St Helens two weeks ago and Reece Chapman-Smith is also available after long-term injury.