LEEDS RHINOS captain Danny McGuire says he is fit and ready to play.
McGuire was not selected for today’s Wetherby Whaler Festive Challenge clash with Wakefield Trinity at Headingley, but is confident the injury problems of last season are behind him.
McGuire had four spells on the sidelines in 2016 after initially suffering damage to a knee in the first half of Rhinos’ opening game and made only 13 appearances in his debut campaign as skipper.
It was the most disappointing time of McGuire’s glittering career, but he is in upbeat mood heading into the new year.
“I am fit,” confirmed the half-back, who was hampered by a foot problem for much of the season and did not play after limping out of the win at London Broncos in August.
“I haven’t missed a beat in pre-season.
“I have been involved in every session and it has been good.
“I stayed behind at the end of the season to get my foot right, so I didn’t have as long a break.
“I worked with the physios for two or three weeks after the season to make sure I could start pre-season and hit the ground running.
“It has worked out really well and I am enjoying pre-season.
“I am enjoying being out there with the lads.
“Everybody’s working hard and the coaching staff have been really good and brought some good things in.
“The boys are loving it and we are all excited for the start of next year.”
McGuire’s injury early in their opening night loss to Warrington Wolves was a blow which set the tone for Rhinos’ year.
But McGuire – who could feature in Ryan Hall’s testimonial game at home to Hull KR on January 20 – is convinced 2017 will be better for him and the team.
“It could not have started any worse, getting injured in the first game,” he reflected.
“No matter how hard I tried, I could never get back into it.
“It was disappointing and frustrating.
“It wasn’t how I wanted my season to go after getting the captaincy, which was a proud moment.
“But I feel like I handled it well, even though sometimes I found it tough.
“I’ve had a lot of good times at the club and a lot of great years so that was just a challenge I had to try and overcome.
“Now I’m just looking forward to trying to do my best for the lads and for the team this year.”
McGuire, 34, reckons he is mentally tougher for the experience of the past 12 months.
“I think when you are in those situations it does make you tougher,” he said.
“Sometimes last year we were in a real hole and whatever we tried, it just didn’t go for us.
“I don’t think you could question the lads’ effort, everybody was trying, but it just wasn’t going for us.
“We had a spate of injuries, but I don’t like making excuses – we just didn’t play well enough at times as well.
“But we will definitely use some of the tough times as motivation for next year, without a doubt.
“We were in some tough places, but one good thing was the lads stuck together.
“Nobody was calling anybody else, we were all in it together and I think we are all going to try and fix it this season.”