LEEDS RHINOS forward Jamie Jones-Buchanan hopes his latest comeback will bring the curtain down on a nightmare 12 months.
The six-time Grand Final winner has been named in Rhinos’ initial 19-man squad for tomorrow’s crucial home game with Castleford Tigers – and once he gets back in the side, he is determined to stay there.
Jones-Buchanan, who will turn 33 next month, had a spell on the sidelines last year due to a knee injury and then missed the start of this season because of a calf problem.
He tore a biceps in the defeat at St Helens in March and suffered a new calf injury during his comeback away to Widnes Vikings last month.
“It hasn’t been the best 12 months,” he admitted. “I have been itching to get back with some sort of consistency for a long time, but I am there or thereabouts now.
“It always takes a bit of time to get back up to speed, but certainly my body is getting back to where it used to be and I am looking forward to being able to contribute with the boys.”
Jones-Buchanan declared the latest setback was a “disgusting” blow after he had battled back from his arm injury.
“This last 12 months has been possibly the hardest in my adult life,” he said. “Going into the Widnes game I had spent a lot of time rehabilitating.
“When you come back from an injury the worry is you are going to re-injure it. The extraordinary thing is I haven’t re-injured any old injury.
“It hasn’t been a case of coming back too soon. Every injury I have picked up has been completely fresh. I’m a bit concerned that the next time I play my ears might fall off!
“It has been odd, but these things happen. I heard a quote while I have been injured from the 1980s that says the big shots are just the little shots that keep shooting. While I have no desire ever to be a big shot, I enjoy the mentality of persistency – just keep persisting and working hard.”
The England man added: “I want to get through a few games, but rugby league is not a sport where you can go in half-hearted.
“I have got to hit the floor running on Thursday, if selected, because we have got a great bunch of young lads who have been stepping up.
“They are not just working hard, they are producing some real quality as well. It is good to see that.”
Tomorrow’s West Yorkshire derby could be a pivotal game in both clubs’ season. The winners will go top of the table, but Leeds could drop to fifth if they lose and other results go against them.
“It is a massive game,” Jones-Buchanan observed. “If you look at the top-five, there’s two points between them all.
“Cas are on fire. Their coach Daryl Powell has done a great job over there and they have got a real team mentality and philosophy, a little bit like ourselves.
“We are under no illusions, Cas want to achieve a lot this year - they are in the race for everything, so we are going to have to perform really well.”