THE ODDS remain stacked against him, but Leeds Rhinos are refusing to give up on Stevie Ward’s Grand Final hopes.
The in-form forward suffered a dislocated shoulder in last Friday’s Betfred Super League semi-final win over Hull.
He seemed to have been ruled out of Saturday’s Old Trafford derby against Castleford Tigers, but was a surprise inclusion in Rhinos’ unchanged 19-man squad.
He is still rated as “unlikely” to feature in the side, but will be given as long as possible to prove his fitness.
Ward missed the 2015 Grand Final win over Wigan due to a knee injury and damaged a shoulder against Warrington Wolves at Old Trafford three years earlier.
He was treated in hospital after the semi-final and has been assessed by orthopaedic surgeon Lennard Funk, who is a specialist in sports-related shoulder injuries.
“The prognosis is it is not as severe as we thought it might be, in terms of the long-term effects,” Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington said.
“There is some hope, he is not without a chance.
“His mental strength is unquestionable. If anybody is capable of coming through this, Stevie has the mental strength and ability to do something quite remarkable.”
Jimmy Keinhorst, who can play in the centres or back-row, is on stand-by to come into the side if Ward is ruled out.
Ashton Golding, who was dropped last week to make way for 18-year-old full-back Jack Walker, is also included in Rhinos’ initial 19.