LEEDS Rhinos’ Stevie Ward is being hailed as a “star in the making” by the man in whose footsteps he is being tipped to follow.
The teenage loose forward, who is set to make his Challenge Cup debut in Saturday’s semi-final against Wigan, has been described as the new Kevin Sinfield and the Leeds captain feels the comparison is fair.
“I think he’s in front of where I was at 18,” said Sinfield. “He’s a special talent and hopefully the club will continue to nurture him in the right way. He’s certainly a star in the making.”
Ward, who like Sinfield joined Leeds at the age of 12, made his Super League debut at St Helens in March and has started the last three matches which have all brought victory for the Rhinos.
“I think it’s fantastic the way he has come in and handled first-team rugby as an 18-year-old,” added Sinfield. “I don’t think you’ll see many in the game doing that, certainly not at the standard he’s played at.
“To combine that as well with his A-levels, which he’s just finished, takes a special type of character. He’s very level-headed and he trains hard and he’ll be around for a long, long time.”
Leeds coach Brian McDermott, who says Ward is sure of his spot in the team on Saturday, said: “It’s fantastic for an 18-year-old to be keeping some good people out of the team.
“I think you can compare him to Kevin Sinfield with his commitment and the way he approaches a game.”
Ward was a spectator when Leeds lost to Wigan in the Cup final at Wembley last August.
“I went down with the academy team,” he said. “I thought about playing on a stage like that. It was at the back of my mind to get somewhere like that.
“It’s just good to be involved with a team I’ve watched all my life. I’ve supported the Rhinos since I was six.”
Hull FC full-back Ryan McGoldrick last night won his appeal against a one-match ban imposed for making contact with a match official during Hull’s defeat by Leeds last Friday.