Skipper Stevie Ward delighted with Leeds Rhinos' return to training

One hundred and 30 days after they last played, Leeds Rhinos returned to training yesterday with a “spring in their step”, captain Stevie Ward says.

Tuesday, 14th July 2020, 6:00 am
Luke Gale gets stuck into sprint training. Picture by Phil Daly.

Rhinos reported back to their Kirkstall training base to begin preparations for their Betfred Super League comeback against Huddersfield Giants on Sunday, August 2.

Unlike some of their rivals, Rhinos’ players have reached an agreement with the club over pay cuts imposed because of the sport’s financial crisis caused by the long coronavirus shutdown.

But while that issue has been resolved, Ward admitted Rhinos’ first organised training session since late March was a very different experience to what they are familiar with.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“There’s a few teething issues and some stuff the lads have got to get their head around, but the staff were brilliant and made it really easy,” Ward said.

“It’s very different, it will take a few days to get used to, but it has been all right.

“The lads have done quite a bit of training and they’re getting back into the swing of things. It is a little bit of a different swing of things, but it is happening.”

Of the differences between pre-coronavirus training and now, Ward noted: “Gym sessions are a bit different, there’s allocated space for each other and [players are working] in smaller groups.

Rhinos coach Richard Agar, right and his assistant James Webster took training on Monday for the first time since March. Picture by Phil Daly.

“There’s not much partnering up in the gym, at all and we are keeping distance from each other in and around the place, unless it’s in the midst of training.

“There’s nice new decorations around the place of notifications to keep your distance and pathways which you take around the spot so it is very different, but it will become habit soon.”

Team manager Jason Davidson was on hand to take players’ temperature when they arrived yesterday and there is no mingling before or after training.

“You get let in at a certain time, in a batch in the car park,” Ward said. “Your temperature's taken and you are allowed in once that’s okay.

Rhinos team manager Jason Davidson takes Konrad Hurrell's temperature as he arrives for training. Picture by Phil Daly.

“You have to sign in and out and we can’t eat together, everyone has to keep apart and eat on their own.

“Everyone has a spring in their step when it comes time for training because you can be sociable.”

Players were left to keep fit alone at the height of lockdown, but have been able to meet up in small groups since restrictions were eased.

Ward, who is still recovering from a head injury which has kept him out of the team since Super League round one on February 2, was impressed - but not surprised - with how good the squad looked on their first day back.

He said: “Everyone looks in good nick, you can tell everyone’s been keeping up with stuff.

“There’s going to be that top end of fitness which is probably going to come in two weeks or a month’s time, getting back into the games, but physically everyone looks pretty good considering how long it has been and the dips in motivation not knowing when we’d be back.

“But the day has come and everyone’s looking pretty good.”

Ward was stood down by Rhinos in February because of continued symptoms following his head knock.

“I am okay,” he said. “I am able to do skills and stuff like that, but I am not in full training at the minute.

“It is very much monitoring it and hopefully I’ll be catching up with the specialist over the course of this week because I am able to go down and see him face to face, so hopefully I’ll have a bit more info’ from him.”

As reported by the Yorkshire Evening Post, Ward is expected to join Toronto Wolfpack when his contract expires at the end of this season.

He said: “I can’t really make a comment because at the minute I am getting back into the swing of things with Leeds and making sure my head is right to get back playing this year.”