‘Big Brother’ house leaves Rhinos stars feeling right at home

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ORDINARILY, you would expect three of his young players all sharing a house together might cause Leeds Rhinos head coach Brian McDermott a potential migraine.

Endless parties, late night revelry, general tomfoolery and the like?

Stevie Ward.

Stevie Ward.

In all fairness, the modern-day footballer is too professional to slip down that route.

In fact, one of the trio who currently reside together – second-row Stevie Ward – insists the 
arrangement is instead a catalyst for his fine start to the new Super League season.

The 21-year-old shares a house with England full-back Zak Hardaker, 23, and Australian back-row Mitch Achurch, 26, while prop Brad Singleton recently moved out and another twenty-something Chris Clarkson did so after he joined Widnes Vikings on a season-loan.

But despite that combination of characters, Ward, who has started all three of Leeds’s games so far, maintains it is no “madhouse”.

Having proved instrumental in Thursday night’s 28-24 win over Huddersfield Giants as the West Yorkshire side maintained their 100 per cent start, he said: “It’s all good. We’re in a good location and we’re all pushing each other to get better with diet, strength and training; it’s all really beneficial to me.

“It is a little pocket outside Kirkstall (Rhinos’ training base) where everyone wants to get better. We can relax and chill out, but know when to push each other.

“We are living and working together, but we are all odd in our own different ways, so there’s different things to spark off and we are all encouraging each other to be better.

“It’s a good set-up for us all and it’s beneficial to us all to have a good laugh outside rugby as well.

“It is great for diet and things like that, because we all pick each other up on stuff. It’s not like a madhouse, we are all really focused on what we are doing.

“We are living just around the corner from the stadium as well, so it really has been a big boost.”

With all the ins and outs of housemates – Hardaker has just arrived – Ward does liken it to the reality TV show Big Brother.

“We’ve got him cleaning now,” he said. “We’ve told him it’s an initiation, he has to clean every night. That’ll be for a year.”

Ward was a Grand Final winner with Leeds in 2012 but dislocated his shoulder the following year and never truly got back up to speed last season.

However, having bulked up further last winter, he looks in great shape now.

This was demonstrated when surging clear in the second half against Huddersfield, fending off Jake Connor – not one of Super League’s smaller full-backs – and then finding Tom Briscoe with a brilliant flick pass for the winger to score.

“A lot of my game is based on tackling hard and running hard,” said the Leeds-born player.

“If I can get through the line with a bit of pace and a bit of evasion, that’s all good for me.

“I used to do that in my amateur days so it’s not unknown for me to be able to do that.

“Hopefully I can keep it going and cause a stir in the defensive line. That’s all I want to do really.

“On Thursday there were a few defensive lapses, but overall I feel a bit stronger.

“I was struggling with my calf a bit at the start, but it’s just good to be out there playing. Hopefully I can stick in the side and keep the rhythm going.”

They will target a fourth successive win when they head over to Hull FC for another televised Thursday night game next week, and must improve further.

They led 18-0 on Thursday but then trailed 24-22 before Paul Aiton’s late score,

Ward added: “I think we went away from the game plan a bit offensively and defensively there were a few lapses, especially on my part.

“We will need to fix that up. There was a point when I was off the field and Giants went in again down the left and I had my head in my hands.

“We’d not beaten Huddersfield for four years and I thought they were going to get us again.

“But we dug in, got the game back and got that obstacle out of the way.

“We’re three rounds in so we’ll see how we go.”