LEEDS RHINOS forward Brett Ferres is using his enforced lay-off to clear up a long-term injury problem.
Tonight’s visit of Huddersfield Giants is the fifth game of Ferres’ six-match ban imposed for a dangerous tackle on Wigan’s Oliver Gildart at Headingley last month.
The England forward was suspended only three games into his comeback from a groin injury which had kept him on the sidelines since the end of last season.
Though he admitted the offence, Ferres felt the length of the ban – the joint most severe handed to a Leeds player in the summer era – was harsh.
But he opted not to appeal and has been using the break to work on the persistent injury.
“It has really been tough,” said Ferres, who has apologised to Gildart for the incident which left the Wigan man with a back injury.
“I missed the start of the season and then getting in for a few games and then getting this big ban was probably not ideal, but it has given me an opportunity to get a few things fixed up.
“I’m fortunate that Leeds have been able to sort them out and I can move on and hopefully be fit when I get back to play.”
Ferres revealed: “I have been to Ireland for a couple of days, seeing the leading specialist over there.
“It was fantastic, absolutely brilliant.
“I have had this injury since last June so it has been difficult, not being able to sprint or even jump and things like that.
“Normal day-to-day stuff, getting out of bed and getting out of the car and things like that, were painful, but I walked out of there with a bit of a spring in my step.
“The pain has disappeared a bit and now it’s just continuing the good work he did, with Andy [Barker] and Ben [Harper] and the physio team at Leeds. It has been a really good week, I’ve still not got the pain and hopefully it will stay away now.
“I felt it all the way through [his recent games].
“From last year I felt it every day, it was horrible – probably the worst injury I have had.
“It’s a niggly one, if you bust your shoulder or your knee you get an op’ or a needle and you get it fixed up and you’re done, but with this it has just been time and trying to manage it.
“We’ve finally found a solution with this specialist who has corrected a few things in my running style and technique and how I move about.
“It was a good thing to get and hopefully now, with that under my belt, I’ll be in much better shape.”
Rhinos have won three of their four games since Ferres’ ban and will go top of Betfred Super League if they win tonight.
“It is good to see,” he said. “At the start of the season I was watching and I hated it because we looked pretty poor in patches and it was one of those where you want to be out there, trying to help and contribute.
“The boys were struggling and there wasn’t much cohesion, but we turned a fairly big corner a few games in. We’ve certainly been good in first halves, we are starting games well and racking some points up.
“We are slipping off at the back end of halves, but certainly the performances have been much more pleasing.”
Tonight will be a test against a Giants side have have not won for two months and were knocked out of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup by part-timers Swinton Lions last weekend.
Ferres, who signed for Leeds from Huddersfield ahead of the 2016 season, said: “They are in a bit of a crisis.
“For me, they have recruited poorly over the last couple of years. I don’t think they’ve brought in the kind of players they needed to. It has certainly changed from the team when I was there in 2013 and 2014 in particular.
“There were some good players then; there’s some now, but they need a few more to complement them. If you look at the squad that played Swinton, it wasn’t a bad squad, but it just wasn’t enough.
“Full credit to Swinton, they took their opportunity. I’m guessing Huddersfield rested a few for that game and they’ll get a few back this week and you’d expect to see a reaction from the boys.”
There is a big prize on offer for Rhinos, who trail Super League leaders Castleford Tigers on points difference. Ferres said: “I think we are in a very good position.
“We’ve not been talked about much this year, we’ve quietly gone about our business and we’ve been doing a job without probably playing brilliant. Last year we weren’t winning these games, but now we are winning the tight, tough ones and getting the performances we need.
“For us, we are in a great spot. We have come out of the Easter weekend pretty fresh and injury-free, which was important and we’ve got a couple of big fixtures now and then into another mini-Easter weekend.
“For us, the next five or six weeks is a really important time.”
Leeds Rhinos: from Golding, Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Galloway, Parcell, Cuthbertson, Jones-Buchanan, Ward, Delaney, Singleton, Garbutt, Mullally, Handley, Oledzki, Walker.
Huddersfield Giants: from Mamo , McGillvary, Murphy, Brough, Hinchcliffe, Wakeman, Ferguson, Leeming, Ikahihifo, Roberts, Clough, Smith, S Wood, McIntosh, Simpson, M Wood, English, Mellor, O’Brien.
Referee: Chris Kendall (Huddersfield).
Kick-off: Tonight, 8pm.