ENGLAND HOPEFUL Stevie Ward is confident of being the next name off Leeds Rhinos’ casualty list.
Ward has missed four matches since suffering a grade two hamstring tear in the final seconds of last month’s win over Salford Red Devils, but is closing in on a return to action.
The injury was a massive blow to a player who sat out much of the 2013 campaign due to a shoulder problem, played only four times in 2016 – after suffering serious knee damage – and missed much of the recent pre-season. But the 23-year-old, who is a member of England’s elite performance squad preparing for this autumn’s World Cup, is recovering well and reckons he is “not far away” from putting his boots back on.
“I’m just testing and testing again this week to see where my hammy’s at because it needs to be at a good stage before I start overloading it and playing again,” Ward said.
“I am just looking after it and taking it day by day. I am not getting too frustrated with it or thinking too much into the future. I’ll just deal with it as it comes.”
Ward, who could be in contention for Friday’s visit of Wigan Warriors, reckons his latest injury is just one of those things that happens in sport.
“A lot of good stuff has happened to me in the game and I’ve been naive in the past to think it happens without any suffering or strife,” he said.
“Little things like a hamstring tear are going to happen.
“Whatever career you are in there’s always going to be problems – it’s just that my problems seem to be highlighted a lot more.
“I’ve obviously suffered a lot with injury, but I also like to look at the good stuff. The team is going well and I am mentally really well at the moment. I am where I am and I am getting better every day, but I am not putting too much strain on myself.
“Rugby league is a tough game and people are going to get injured. The number of games is going up, but squad numbers aren’t.
“I look at my injury and think ‘don’t get too stressed out, because there’s a lot more games to play’. I don’t want to overload myself.”
Ward, who has spoken publicly of battling depression during last year’s lay-off, is in a good frame of mind despite his latest setback.
“The team are going well,” he said. “The team is always interchanging. I haven’t had the best of luck, but people are always coming in and out of the team.
“You can be guilty of thinking everything’s going to stay the same and we will always have our best starting team out all the time. But things change and other people come to the fore and that allows room for younger players. Josh Walters and Jordan Baldwinson have been playing really well and Anthony Mullally has been getting a good crack of the whip. He has been fantastic.
“I am just enjoying the team going well.”
Meanwhile, Huddersfield Giants’ Danny Brough has been charged with grade B punching in Leeds’ win at John Smith’s Stadium last Friday.
Brough was sin-binned following a clash with Rhinos’ Carl Ablett.
The Leeds man, who was also yellow carded, has not been charged after the RFL’s match review panel studied the incident.