Leeds Rhinos: Headingley alive to the sound of music

Stevie Ward in action.
Stevie Ward in action.
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Rhinos forward Stevie Ward has turned his hand to record production during his time on the sidelines. Dave Craven reports.

WHILE waiting to relaunch his rugby league career, Leeds Rhinos youngster Stevie Ward is also preparing to actually launch his first music production.

The talented second-row has not played since dislocating a shoulder at Hull KR in April but hopes to imminently make his long-awaited return.

While putting his injury frustrations behind him, though, he hasn’t been sitting idly passing time during the last eight months.

In partnership with a friend, Ward has put together a Leeds Rhinos CD entitled South Stand Music which is set to hit the shops on Tuesday.

It is an unusual departure from life as a Super League player, but the 20-year-old admits he has loved the whole process.

“I’ve always really been into my music and my mate Dom Smith is studying music production at York St John’s University,” he explained.

“We always go to gigs and festivals together and, when I got injured, he just said ‘why don’t we make a CD for Leeds Rhinos fans?’

“It’s not really something that’s been done before so we got some recordings of the Headingley crowd, a lot of the banter plus chants us players sing after matches and made it into this album.

“It’s a real compilation and there’s a few parodies in there too.

“There’s me and Rob Burrow appearing on one track singing Freelove Freeway from The Office with Ryan Hall on guitar.

“We’re all big fans of that series and there’s a lot of banter in the dressing room about it so that was an obvious one to do.

“We’ve also got Richard Moore – or Lionel-Rich Moore as he’s now known – singing Hello.

“He’s known in the rugby league world for being a beautiful singer and that shows on this CD.

“Then there’s a new Ronnie the Rhino song we’ve written which is going to be massive.

“The kids will love that. Ronnie’s so big now we thought we’d have to come up a new one for him.”

Proceeds from the album will go to Lymphoma Association – “my grandad fell ill with it about six months ago so it’s ideal for me” – and Leeds Rugby Foundation.

Ward is closing in on that playing return, meanwhile, and is revelling in being able to step up his training after months of rehabilitation.

“It’s really busy,” he said.

“Coming back from the injury I’ve been used to not doing much and being sat on the sidelines.

“But it’s been a bit more involved recently and I’ve only a few weeks now to full contact when I will be right back into it.

“Everyone else is in full swing and I won’t be long. I’m looking forward to that.”

After surgery on his shoulder, nerve damage meant Ward was forced to spend longer on the sidelines than initially expected, but the end is now in sight.

The former Churwell Chief could even play in the Heatshot Festive Challenge against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats at Headingley.

“Boxing Day isn’t certain yet,” he said.

“I might be okay for that but we’re not sure whether to leave it for another game and make sure it’s nailed on and the shoulder is right rather than rush back.

“That’s not a decision I’ll make though. I’m not relying on how I feel, I’ll let the physios make that call and I’m happy to do that. But we’ll know soon either way.”

One of Super League’s most exciting prospects, Ward admits he is eager to return to doing what he does best.

“It’s been around eight months now,”he said, having had to sit back helpless as Leeds lost grip on he Super League title he helped them win last year.

“I’ve never been out for that long before, missing such a big chunk of the season like that.

“It’s not so bad when it’s pre-season and no one is playing but during the year it was really tough seeing all the players out there going so well and me not being able to be a part of it.

“Obviously it was a disappointing end to the year but I can’t wait to get back and help us challenge for silverware again.”

Ward played in last year’s Grand Final triumph having also – at the age of just 18 – started in the Challenge Cup final at Wembley in his debut campaign.

Given his obvious pedigree, with a purposeful running game, strong defence and astute game awareness for someone so young, he had been tipped to maybe break into England’s World Cup squad before injury struck.

If his shoulder stands the tests that lie ahead, Ward’s first Super League game back could be the season opener on February 16.

Ironically, that will be at Craven Park, the scene of that injury.

“It had been quite a good year for me in 2012 and then at the start of this season I played in the World Club Challenge and was invited along to the England ETS get-together too,” he recalled.

“It was great to be making progress and that’s what I’ve always aimed to do.

“It will probably be a more slow build-up for me in 2014 and I’ll just need to take it steady but I’m keen to carry on like I was and am looking forward to playing again.”

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