Wigan Warriors v Leeds Rhinos: Why Mikolaj Oledzki is raring to go after six-week injury lay-off
BIG PROP Mikolaj Oledzki says he is “feeling good” and anxious to be part of Leeds Rhinos’ play-off campaign.
Rhinos begin their bid for a ninth Betfred Super League title in a sudden-death elimination tie at Wigan Warriors tonight.
Oledzki has been included in Rhinos’ initial 21-man squad for the first time since the home defeat by Warrington Wolves on August 1 and is among four first-choice forwards who could return to the matchday side.
The 22-year-old was one of the most in-form ‘middles’ in the competition when a toe injury, which required surgery, forced him on to the sidelines.
Now, having missed eight games, the Polish-born England international is itching to get back into the heat of battle.
“I have got a chance - hopefully a very good chance,” he said of his prospects of featuring tonight.
“This was always the goal after the surgery, to get to the six-week mark and into a situation where it’s pain free or at least there’s a minimal amount of pain and I am able to get a game.
“So far, so good - I have had a few training sessions and I feel good.”
Oledzki, who made his Rhinos debut in 2017, was ever-present before injuring a foot away to Warrington in July.
He missed three games after that setback, but was then hurt again in his second comeback match, also against Warrington.
“It is the first time I’ve really had a long lay-off,” he said.
“Six weeks isn’t really a long time compared to some of the injuries some of the lads have been through so I can’t really moan about being out for six weeks. But it has been pretty tough because it has been the first period when I’ve been unable to play and to train and be out there with the lads.
“It was something new to me but all the physios and staff have looked after me so it wasn’t too bad.
“I am glad that’s behind me and I am really looking forward to getting back out there, hopefully.”
Oledzki will be coming back into a huge game, with tonight’s loser being eliminated from the play-offs.
“It doesn’t get much bigger,” he admitted.
“At the moment, I am trying not to think about the fact I haven’t played for so many weeks.
“I just want to get out on the field, whether it’s for 60 minutes or 40 or 20.
“For however long it is, I am going to give it everything I’ve got and, hopefully, I can contribute to a good win.”
Returning in what is likely to be a close, intense clash could be a gamble, but Oledzki stressed: “These are the games you want to play in so, having had a few training sessions and feeling pretty good, it was a no-brainer.
“I said to Rich [Agar, Rhinos’ coach] I feel good and if I get picked I am ready to go.
“I am really excited to get the six weeks behind me and start looking forward to the end of the week when the games happen.
“For the last six weeks, I have had nothing to look forward to at the end of the week.
“I have enjoyed watching the lads and I’ve been cheering them on but you’d rather be out there yourself playing with them, rather than just watching.”
Rhinos are heading to Wigan for the second time in a month, having won 14-0 there on August 25.
That was their first away victory against Wigan since 2013 and, along with last week’s 36-12 defeat of Hull KR, will send them into tonight’s tie in confident mood.
But Oledzki warned this evening is the start of a new competition and previous results don’t count.
“Every game is different, especially when you get to this stage of the season,” he said.
“All the other games in the regular season go out the window; everything starts again and it is knockout rugby.
“Every game, you play for everything and it is who wants it more.
“We will probably take some confidence out of the last game.
“We nilled them and not a lot of teams do that at Wigan. It’s not an easy task but we are starting from scratch and trying not to think about past results.
“We have to concentrate on ourselves and make sure we play well, play the best we can as a team and, hopefully, that will get us over the line on the night.”
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