VETERAN LEEDS Rhinos forward Jamie Jones-Buchanan says he is “not a million miles off” making his comeback following knee surgery.
The 36-year-old seven-time Grand Final winner has not played since the Magic Weekend loss to Castleford Tigers almost two months ago.
Rhinos have not won in Betfred Super League during his spell out of the team and will go into tomorrow’s home derby with Wakefield Trinity on a run of eight successive defeats and ninth in the table.
That has increased Jones-Buchanan’s desperation to get back and help out, but he insisted he can’t risk returning before the damaged knee is fully healed.
“It is coming on,” Jones-Buchanan said of his recovery. “It is about where I expected it to be.
“It has been quite a difficult one, but I am not a million miles off.”
It has been quite a difficult one, but I am not a million miles off.Jamie Jones-Buchanan
Jones-Buchanan has been working on an anti-gravity treadmill and added: “I’m running really well.
“I need to get a good week out on the field to get a bit of strength back in there and muscle memory and then get myself back in the side and try and inject some enthusiasm and potency.”
Jones-Buchanan admitted it has been hard watching as Rhinos have slipped down the table into relegation danger.
“When you want to contribute it is hard when you’re not on the field, though everybody plays a part whether they are playing or not,” he said.
“The lads are doing it really tough and I just want to get out there and try and add a little bit, defensively in particular.
“We are missing a bit of grafting at times. We have got a lot of offensive players, but the last couple of games especially we’ve probably fallen short defensively.
“We will get a few numbers back soon, hopefully and I will be a part of that and just give whatever I can for the group.”
When Jones-Buchanan does return it will be under Rhinos’ new management team of director of rugby Kevin Sinfield and head coach James Lowes.
Former Leeds captain Sinfield is one of Jones-Buchanan’s closest friends and the back-rower is excited by his return to the club.
He said: “I’ve been asked how the team has dealt with changes of coach in the past and it has never been difficult because a lot of the culture and foundation and roots of the team always revolved around Kevin Sinfield; he always made sure everything was congruent and lads like JP [Jamie Peacock] and Mags [Danny McGuire] added to that.
“So to get Kev back in this role, I think it’s a bit of a genius move. Jimmy Lowes is well-versed with the players and has done a fantastic job in the past coming in as a consultant. He is here permanently now and to have Kev in between Jimmy and the management staff, people like [chief executive] Gary [Hetherington], I think is absolutely the perfect role. It fits Kev to a tee and I don’t think they possibly could have made a better appointment.”
Meanwhile, Rhinos are understood to be considering re-signing former Wakefield hooker Paul Aiton who left them at the end of 2015 to join Catalans Dragons.
Aiton announced his retirement two months ago after a series of head injuries.