Stevie Ward has vowed to put his Wembley heartache behind him by helping fire Leeds Rhinos to more Super League success.
The young back-row played against Wigan Warriors on Friday night, his first game since suffering the disappointment of being left out by Brian McDermott for the club’s victorious Challenge Cup final win over Castleford Tigers.
Ward, who had played in the losing 2012 final side against Warrington when aged just 18, admitted it was a sobering experience.
“It was one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to deal with not playing at Wembley,” said the player, who missed out to fellow Academy product Liam Sutcliffe.
“But you look at last year and previously and we didn’t have any competition for places.
“Now, at this time of the season, there is so much comp’ here and with the personnel we’ve got people are going to miss out.
“It’s just the way it is. That’s the way you have to look at it. Luckily for me there’s games after Wembley so I’ll go with that.
“It’s a short, snappy bit of the season after the Challenge Cup final into the play-offs so if I just chuck everything at that I’ll see how I go.
“I should be all right but it’s up to Mac and at the end of the day the be all and end all is winning and we won at Wembley so I can’t argue much for the selection. Whatever Mac says we go with.”
Leeds will have to make history if they are to win a seventh Grand Final title given they must do from a new low of sixth position following the 21-6 loss at Wigan and Huddersfield defeating Hull FC yesterday.
Friday also marked Rhinos’ fourth successive league defeat but Ward - who played in the 2012 title success at Old Trafford - insists they are not overly concerned by their form.
Leeds have generally been competitive throughout with, Wigan and the loss at Warrington aside, their losing margins normally narrow such as the previous week’s 13-12 reverse against leaders St Helens.
“It’s just about being in contests,” said Ward.
“We always seem to find ourselves in contests because the teams that we are playing now are just so up for it.
“They’re just brilliant sides (Saints and Wigan) and I think in the long run that just makes you better.
“We’re looking at a worse league position than we wanted but hopefully, with all the contests and games that we’ve had, we can build that together and come up with the finished product.”
They round off their regular campaign at Hull FC on Friday and the 20-year-old added: “It’s a similar test (to Wigan).
“They’ll be looking to put everything into their last game of the season, a last hurrah and, to play us, it’s a massive test for them to go out shouting really.”