Luckless Huddersfield Giants stalwart Leroy Cudjoe is hoping his luck will change on restart

LOSING not only the captaincy at his hometown club but also his squad number has made Huddersfield Giants’ Leroy Cudjoe all the more determined to rediscover his best form after two years of injury hell.

Leroy Cudjoe.

The former England centre has endured some torrid misfortune in recent seasons having played only once in the last 19 months due to a chronic knee issue.

Indeed, since the end of 2017, Cudjoe has managed to pull on the claret and gold just 11 times.

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You can imagine, then, his sense of utter frustration and helplessness when tomorrow’s planned return was halted not by another setback in his rehab’ but a once-in-a-generation global pandemic.

Huddersfield’s Aidan Sezer.

“I was meant to be making my comeback this Sunday in the reserves game against Wakefield,” Cudjoe revealed in an exclusive interview with The Yorkshire Post.

“It was a game I targeted a few weeks back. Since then I’ve ticked all the right boxes and come through some contact sessions with the boys.

“I was really looking forward to playing, I’ve been excited for a good few weeks now at the thought of getting back out there.

“But circumstances beyond anyone’s control means I’ll have to wait a little longer.

“My focus at the moment is using this time wisely to get fitter and stronger so I’m ready to go once we’re back up and running.”

Rugby league shut down on Monday until April 3 – just four days before Cudjoe’s 32nd birthday – although no one expects any games to take place again until May at the earliest.

Whenever the action does restart, Cudjoe, more than most, will be looking to make up for lost time.

However, he does have that further incentive, too; coach Simon Woolford relieved him of captaincy duties in January, giving Australian scrum-half Aidan Sezer, their ‘marquee’ signing from NRL Grand Finalists Canberra Raiders, the role instead.

Cudjoe had been captain for the previous three seasons but also lost his No3 jersey as well with young Jake Wardle being promoted after some impressive form.

“Aidan becoming captain was for the best,” insisted Cudjoe, who has spent his entire career with Giants, playing almost 300 games and helping them to the 2013 League Leaders’ Shield.

“As disappointing as it was I fully understood it; I’d missed a lot of games, the team had changed a lot and the boys needed someone who was going to be out there with them from Round One to lead them around.

“Seze is a natural leader; that was obvious from the first day he came in. Not being captain and losing my number has made me more hungry than I was before.

“My main goal was always to get back on that field but losing both of them has made me more determined to get back out there and doing what I do best again.”

Cudjoe did make his initial comeback after a 10-month lay-off in the 36-10 loss at Wakefield Trinity last June.

However, he strained a hamstring during the game and later suffered more knee problems that needed further extensive work meaning it remained his solitary appearance of 2019.

Now the threat of Covid-19 has sidelined the entire squad and the sport as a whole. Cudjoe, who won 10 caps for England and played in the 2013 World Cup, said: “We’ve been told to stay away from the club for a few days and stay inside as much as possible, keeping contact with others to a minimum.

“We’ve got home programmes to be cracking on with to keep us ticking over. Like everyone else we’re just taking it day by day and working with what the experts and the club are telling us. I’m not sure how we go about the season and back-log in fixtures for when we are allowed to return to play.

“The main concern for rugby league, though is that the sport and the clubs can survive these hard times and pull through.

“I’m sure the people in charge are looking at all possibilities and can come up with a plan.”

Giants started this term well with Sezer’s organisational quality having an obvious improvement on a side who nearly suffered relegation last term.

They won four of their opening five league games but suffered a Challenge Cup exit at home to Toronto Wolfpack last week. Cudjoe said: “We’ve had a good start.

“We’ve had very disappointing performances in our two home appearances but it’s been a solid start. There’s been a good vibe since the first day of pre-season.

“Ollie Richardson put together a good pre-season structure, we recruited well and the boys came back ready, buzzing to get to work, so our start hasn’t surprised any of us.

“We’re just very disappointed to be out of the Cup; that hurt and it’s a shame we have to wait a while to bounce back from that.”