Stevie Ward keeps faith with leadership strategy at Leeds Rhinos
LEEDS RHINOS' Stevie Ward admits he was 'disappointed' not to get a longer run at captaining his home-town club '“ but has complete faith in chief Kevin Sinfield's decision.
The talented back-row made his much-awaited comeback from concussion issues during Sunday’s 42-28 Qualifiers win at London Broncos.
It was only his third game in the blue and amber since former team-mate Sinfield took over from the axed Brian McDermott in July.
Ward had been made stand-in Rhinos captain by McDermott – under whom he had won two Grand Finals – when regular captain Kallum Watkins suffered a season-ending knee injury in May.
However, when appointed director of rugby and faced with the club on the back of seven successive league losses, Sinfield announced he was putting in place a leadership group of four players to take the armband at various times in Watkins’s continued absence.
Ward, 24, was one of them but fellow forwards Carl Ablett, Adam Cuthbertson and Brad Singleton would also all get chance to lead the defending Super League champions.
“It’s one of those things,” he said.
“I’d been in a mire of concussion and knocks and stuff like that over the few weeks before.
“I would probably say that I was a little bit disappointed I couldn’t do more with it (the captaincy).
“But I trust Kev and whatever he wants for the team I will do.”
Rhinos have certainly started to get their act together, winning their opening two Qualifiers games to assuage fears of being demoted.
And Ward, who inherited Sinfield’s No13 jersey after the legend finished his Rhinos playing days in 2015, is enjoying now working under a man who had such a big impact on his own fledgling career when he debuted at just 18.
“It’s good when you have had someone who’s played on the field and they know you and know you really, really well,” he said.
“I developed a really good relationship with Mac (McDermott) over the years as he was here such a long time. But Kev knows what it’s about.
“He’s only just recently retired and has real authority on the group and everyone respects him.
“So it’s good. He brings a good energy to it.
“I imagine he knows the task that he has got on and how big these Qualifiers are.
“But there’s the prospect of building and building for next year as well and, for me, it’s good to be out there again.”
Encouragingly, Ward reported no ill-effects after making that successful return at Ealing, only his third game in more than two months.
“The head’s all fine and it was good to get that first game back after a bit of a rough spell,” he said.
“It was quite a professional performance for most of the match against a side who we knew would be good given how they’d beaten Widnes. But we do need to improve in some areas again for Hull KR next up.”