PLAYERS WILL not be rushed back from injury for Leeds Rhinos’ opening game of the season at St Helens on Thursday, coach Brian McDermott has pledged.
After learning some tough lessons last year, McDermott said he will only include players if they are fully fit and ready to go.
Captain Danny McGuire played just once in pre-season, limping out of Ryan Hall’s testimonial game against Hull KR on January 20.
Brett Ferres missed all Leeds’ warm-up matches and Stevie Ward played his first game of the year – following a knee injury – against Featherstone Rovers eight days ago.
“Magsy got a bit of a quad strain against Hull KR and Brett Ferres is coming back from an achingly slow recovery with his groin area,” McDermott reported. “He was riddled with niggles towards the back end of last season and he rarely trained, but played, which is crazy because he was one of our best performers towards the back end.
“He may not be right for Saints. Stevie Ward is trying to prove his fitness as well, as is Brett Delaney who has been carrying niggles through pre-season. I think we’re nearly there. I won’t say we’ve got a fully fit squad and we are obviously missing Keith Galloway with a long-term Achilles snap, but the team we field is going to be strong.”
McGuire had an injury-hit 2016, when he was restricted to just 13 appearances. The stand-off is crucial to Rhinos’ hopes of climbing the table this term, but McDermott insisted the priority is to get him right.
He admitted he is “not sure” if McGuire will be available for the game at Saints and he stressed: “One of the big lessons I learned from last year is don’t chase the wins, don’t try and get your supposedly best players out there trying to chase a win.
“Especially with Magsy we will make sure he gets the right amount of running, the right amount of prep’ before he plays.”
Rhinos winger Ash Handley and forwards Jordan Baldwinson, Jack Ormondroyd and Josh Walters have been named in Featherstone Rovers’ squad for tomorrow’s Championship game at Halifax on dual-registration. And Jordan Lilley, Sam Hallas, Josh Jordan-Roberts and Mikolaj Oledzki could all feature as loan players for Bradford Bulls away to Hull KR.