INJURED FORWARD Stevie Ward has set his sights on being available for the big game at the end of this month.
Ward is recovering from ankle damage and has targeted the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final against St Helens on July 31 for his comeback.
The 21-year-old second-rower was one of Rhinos’ most in-form players before being hurt in the home Super League win over Saints 12 days ago.
Assessing his recovery, he said: “It’s going well.
“I’ve got the boot off now, so, hopefully, I can get some strength into it and I can move things on quickly now.
“I want to get things going – it is a four- to six-week injury and I want to make it four.
“I want to get back for the semi-final. That’s a great game to get back for.”
Ward’s return to face Saints would be a major boost for Leeds and he added: “It gives me a target and it is a big target.
“The semi-final is everything. I have played in a couple already and I don’t want to miss out on this one.
“I have got to look after myself and make sure I am back in shape when it comes around.”
Ward had missed only one game before before his injury and described the lay-off as “just one of those things”.
He added: “A lot of players have missed a few games, it’s not just me who gets injured. It’s just something you have to deal with.
“I had a lot of game time before it and, hopefully, I can come back fresh.
“I’ll be working with the conditioners to get better and stronger in the next few weeks, so I can hit my straps when I come back.”
Unless he suffers a setback, Ward will return for the crucial matches in the final three months of the season.
Rhinos’ Super-8s campaign begins the weekend after the semi-final and Ward said: “We’ve had a few injuries this year, but, hopefully, we’re getting over that now and we can have people back for the business end.”
Ward revealed his injury was caused by friendly fire, as both he and team-mate Jimmy Keinhorst went in to tackle the same Saints player.
Ironically, Keinhorst could be one of the players Ward is competing with for a place in the team when he returns to full fitness.
“He has been going brilliantly,” said Ward. “I am kind of worried about getting back into the side.”
Rhinos have had injuries concerns in the back-row, with Jamie Jones-Buchanan – who could feature against Salford Red Devils on Friday – struggling to shake off a hamstring problem and Mitch Achurch on the long-term casualty list due to a fractured wrist.
Ward shares a house with Achurch and he said: “I think people wonder what’s been going on when they come in.
“We’ve both got injuries, to different limbs – it’s a bit like Laurel and Hardy.
“His upper 50 per cent is injured and my lower 50 per cent is. One does the walking around and the other does the washing up!”