LONG-TERM CASUALTY Mitch Garbutt has confirmed he is on the mend after knee problems wrecked his Leeds Rhinos season.
The strong-running Australian prop made only nine appearances this year, but expects to be fit enough to take a full part in pre-season.
He is recovering from surgery and revealed: “I ran [last week] for the first time in what seemed like forever and it felt really good.
“It was my second operation this year, but I think this one has done the job, hopefully.”
Garbutt missed the opening three games of the season – including the World Club Challenge at his former club Melbourne Storm – before a two-match comeback.
He was then sidelined for exactly three months, from March to June.
Another short-lived return ended in the final game of the regular Betfred Super League season away to Salford on July 27.
With Keith Galloway having retired from elite-level rugby early in the year and Brad Singleton, Adam Cuthbertson and Anthony Mullally all spending time on the casualty list, Rhinos have lacked power up front.
Garbutt said: “It has been one of those years where I thought I was contributing quite well when I was out there, but I haven’t been out there enough. I will put this year behind me and obviously now the season’s over we can focus on next year and a big pre-season.”
Last week’s 17-16 home loss to Toronto Wolfpack cost Rhinos top spot in the Qualifiers.
Finishing second was the equivalent to 10th in Super League, equalling their previous lowest placing from 1996.
“Everyone’s glad this year’s over for us,” admitted Garbutt.
But he believes Rhinos, under incoming coach Dave Furner, can have a better season in 2019.
He said: “The thing about us is we know how to win big games.
“If we are there or thereabouts you never know with us.
“Hopefully there’ll be a few fresh faces to shake things up and obviously we’ve got Dave Furner coming in.
“I am looking forward to working with him.
“It will be a big pre-season for everyone.”
Furner played for Leeds in 2003 and 2004 and has since been head coach of Canberra Raiders as well as assistant at North Queensland Cowboys, South Sydney Rabbitohs and with the Australian Test side.
Garbutt reckons he is a good appointment and he added: “He has got a good pedigree. He has been at some successful clubs and worked with some good coaches and obviously he was a champion player.”
Furner’s arrival at Leeds Rhinos will allow Kevin Sinfield to concentrate on his role as director of rugby.
“You’ve got to give Kev some credit; he has been really good,” Garbutt insisted.
“He has come in, he had a tough job and he has done the best he can and now I think he can focus on what he wants to do in his director of rugby role.”