Ward admits he’s doubtful for Leeds’ Super League opener at Warrington

Leeds forward Stevie Ward admits his hopes of being fit for their Super League opener against Warrington are looking doubtful – saying their World Club Challenge game in Melbourne next month is now his goal.

Ward played through the pain barrier with a serious shoulder injury to help the Rhinos win the Grand Final last October – an injury which eventually scuppered his chance of an England call-up for the World Cup after requiring surgery.

The forward is recovering well from the injury, but concedes he is in a race against time to be fit for February 1 when the reigning champions start their campaign at Warrington.

He told TotalRL: “Round one might be a stretch. I admit my hopes were pinned on that but I had a frustrating end to the week last week with it being a bit sore, so that kind of sets it back a bit.

“All hopes are being able to play in the World Club Challenge now. That’s my belief and my goal – and I’ve got to do that. I’ve just got to do that.”

Ward has also revealed the voicemail which abruptly brought him back to Earth after winning the Grand Final – from England coach Wayne Bennett, saying Leeds’ medical staff had decided he needed surgery rather than go to the World Cup with his country.

He recalled: “I had a voicemail from Wayne on the Saturday night, the night of the Grand Final, and I didn’t hear it until Sunday.

“Our medical staff had spoken to England’s and Wayne made the call to tell me Leeds had decided I needed an operation. After the Grand Final I was on top of the world and thought I’d be fine, but I needed the operation.

“I’ve learned to become a bit less attached and go out and do some different stuff in the off-season.”

Leeds fans, make sure to check out TotalRL next week for an in-depth interview with Ward on a rollercoaster few years – as well as an exclusive interview with new captain Kallum Watkins in this Monday’s paper.