Positive news for Leeds Rhinos as injured star Ash Handley makes 'good progress' - two others could also return for Super League clash with St Helens
Injured winger Ash Handley could be available for Leeds Rhinos’ next game, at home to champions St Helens in six days’ time, coach Richard Agar has confirmed.
Agar is also hopeful prop Tom Holroyd will come into contention for the first time this year and said second-rower Bodene Thompson has a chance of being back in the side after a two-match layoff.
Handley was Betfred Super League’s top try scorer last year, but has played in only four of Rhinos’ nine competitive games in 2021.
The England squad man suffered a knee injury in a pre-season game at Huddersfield Giants two weeks before the campaign began and missed Leeds’ first four matches.
He returned, at full-back, in the defeat away to Hull KR at the end of April, but sat out last week’s big victory over Castleford with a new knee problem.
That raised fears Handley could be facing another long layoff, but Agar revealed: “He’s all right, he is making good progress.”
He said: “He will have a chance next week.
“There’s still a long way to go between now and the game, but he has made good progress initially and he is on the right track.
“We will see towards the middle of next week how he is going.”
Agar said the injury is not a recurrence of the damage suffered in pre-season.
“It is the same knee, but in a different place and of a different sort of severity,” he stated.
Of Thompson, who has a shoulder injury, Agar said: “He is getting close, he should be in contention for St Helens ”
Holroyd is one of five players - along with Jack Walker (foot), Harry Newman (broken leg), Rob Lui (quad muscle) and Callum McLelland (groin) - who have yet to play this year because of injury.
He was set to feature in Rhinos’ opening game, against Wakefield Trinity, before suffering a fractured leg in pre-season and Agar said the 20-year-old “has a chance” of being included in the squad to take on Saints on Friday, June 11.
That would add some extra muscle to a Rhinos’ pack which has been in good form this year, despite disappointing results.
Assessing the contribution of his big men in the middle of the field, Agar said: “They have been going great but I think they have been going great for a while.
“We have not been getting results and we’ve had a fair amount of challenges thrown our way, but I think our middles have performed well all season.”
Leeds have a two-week build-up into the Saints game, following last week’s 60-6 romp at Castleford Tigers.
That was only the third time Leeds have been able to field their full-back/scrum-half pairing of Richie Myler and Luke Gale and they ran the show in an 11-try performance.
Agar said: “There’s a couple of games we feel are ones that got away, but when you get blokes back who have been out for five, six or seven weeks, it is hard to think they are going to play their best football in their first game back.
“We got it together last week and I thought we played really well, but I thought we did a lot of things right the game before, against Hull.
“Clearly our good ball attack wasn’t good enough and we had some adjustments to make there, but I think what we are hoping for now is a fairly settled lineup over the next few weeks.”
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