London Broncos v Leeds Rhinos: Ward delighted to be back in the thick of it
RETURNING STAR Stevie Ward is 'raring to go' when Leeds Rhinos visit London Broncos tomorrow.
Ward has been named in Rhinos’ initial squad after two months disrupted by a head injury and illness and says he is desperate to make up for lost time.
The 24-year-old’s comeback will be a huge boost for injury- and suspension-hit Rhinos as they aim to make it two wins from two in the Betfred Qualifiers.
“It has been tough, but I am raring to go and really excited to get back in,” said the back-rower who has played only twice since suffering concussion in a clash of heads with team-mate Mikolaj Oledzki against Huddersfield Giants on June 8.
He was cleared to return last week when Rhinos began their fight against relegation at home to Toulouse Olympique, but missed the 48-22 win due to illness.
He said: “I was disappointed not to make that game, but I’ve been cleared from the concussion. That has been a really rough time and obviously with the performances on the field it has been even harder, but I’m back now.
“I feel like myself again and I feel like I can go in and offer something as well.”
Ward returned for two games after his initial head injury and admitted that was probably a mistake.
“I probably came back too early and didn’t treat it with the right measure it deserved,” he said. “I’ve learned from that now. I know how important it is to be in the right mindset to deal with stuff. When it’s a head injury it’s an even tougher task, but I’m glad to be through the other side of it now.”
Ward missed the start of the season as he recovered from a dislocated shoulder suffered a week before the 2017 Grand Final. He pulled a calf muscle two games into his comeback, in the World Club Challenge defeat at Melbourne Storm, but played 10 successive games before the concussion.
Injuries have dogged Rhinos all year and Ryan Hall became the latest casualty after suffering season-and Rhinos career-ending knee damage against Toulouse.
“You’ve got to roll with it and do your best when you can,” he said of the injury situation. We’ve not had the best of luck and also we’ve not been the best. We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do now and come through it and build for next year.
“It is going to be an exciting year.”
London finished second in the Betfred Championship and began their Qualifiers campaign with a 21-20 win at Super League Widnes Vikings.
They are expecting a record crowd for their latest ground at Ealing Trailfinders and the artificial pitch will add to the prospects of an upset.
“It’s what we want, we want that challenge,” Ward insisted.
“To go down to London and know we are playing a team who are really firing into the middle-eights, it’s what we want.
“We want to go down there and do a job. We can’t take them lightly, it will be a tough game and what we need to address is how we play. That’s going to be a continuous thing through the middle-eights.”
A win tomorrow would take Rhinos into the Challenge Cup final weekend break on maximum points and Ward said: “That’d be nice.
“It’d give us time to take a break and have a rest to fire into it and get some hard work done for the Hull KR game. In theory it will get tougher, but every week is about us looking at ourselves in the mirror to be the best we can be.”