THE LOSS of in-form forward Stevie Ward is a setback for Leeds Rhinos, coach Brian McDermott says, but Grand Final opponents Castleford Tigers expect to have a key man back for Saturday’s title decider at Old Trafford.
Ward suffered a dislocated shoulder in Rhinos’ 18-16 semi-final win over Hull last Friday and McDermott admitted: “It is a blow, he has been a big part of who we are – he has been good.”
McDermott said Ward saw a specialist in Manchester on Monday and could have a chance of being available for the World Cup which begins later this month.
Ward was taken to hospital on Friday night and McDermott added: “They could not get his shoulder back in.
“They had to put him out and he woke up extremely sore and in a bad mood on Saturday. He turned up [yesterday] and I don’t think the long-term part of it is going to be that bad. He is in a bad way, but I don’t think there is a reconstruction needed.”
McDermott confirmed Carl Ablett, Brett Ferres and Jimmy Keinhorst are in contention to take over from Ward in Saturday’s starting side, but hamstring victim Brett Delaney remains on the casualty list.
The coach also said he has yet to decide who will start at full-back. Jack Walker played against Hull, but Ashton Golding is also in contention.
“We’ll decide when we’ve got past a couple of days’ training,” McDermott said.
“It is a big decision for whoever plays and whoever doesn’t play. I am not sure yet.”
Meanwhile, Tigers could be at full-strength.
Coach Daryl Powell said second-rower Oliver Holmes – who missed last Thursday’s semi-final victory against St Helens with a groin injury – is pushing for a place in the final.
“He trained [yesterday],” Powell said. “We will see how he goes through the week.
“We have got another couple of training sessions, we’ve got a longer preparation than the last couple of weeks and he should be in contention, I think.”
Tigers’ entire squad visited Old Trafford yesterday and stayed overnight in Manchester. They will make the trip from West Yorkshire on the day of the game.
More than 60,000 tickets have been sold and Super League executive director Roger Draper said the Grand Final could sell out on Thursday.