It’s odd to think that a mere eight years ago the Giants were the laughing stock of Super League. Finishing bottom of Super League for four straight seasons (saved from relegation only by bureaucracy) with a side with journeymen players overlooked by small crowds engulfed within their large stadium. What made it sadder was that this was a club with great history, not to mention the club located in the birthplace of the game. It says a lot about how far the club have come since those earlier follies in the Super League era that last season was probably their most disappointing since their return to the top flight.
After the increased levels of success they had in the years prior to last season (reaching the Challenge Cup final, reaching the playoffs for the first time) finishing in tenth place and sacking Jon Sharp didn’t really cut it in the achievement stakes. Therefore it’s understandable that this year the Giants seem to have pressed the reset button. With a new coach and an influx of new players, they will be looking for a return to the upward curve they were on prior to last year.
Huddersfield enter this season with a fairly solid squad with quite a few under-appreciated players. Their pack is a pretty mobile one, with Eorl Crabtree and Stephen Wild on the peripheries of international consideration. They also have a decent line up in the backs as well, with the incoming Brett Hodgson looking to add a touch of class to a usually dependable back-line featuring the likes of Kevin Brown, Martin Aspinwall and the emerging Michael Lawrence.
Huddersfield will almost certainly be targeting a playoff place and it’s definitely within their grasp. Their success will largely depend on how quickly they are able to gel as a unit. It’s also not entirely certain who will be partnering Luke Robinson in the halves, with their ludicrous plan to sign Todd Carney now aborted. Partly due to their early Super League disasters the Giants never seem to get the respect that they deserve, and they seem like a team that could get some success flying under the radar. The Giants’ main hope will be that Nathan Brown can put them back on the right track this season.
Pros: A fairly talented squad with a decent number of British prospects gets a talented new coach this season. Things seem to be be going well off the field at the Galpharm now, with community work paying off. They’re also bringing in a really exciting full-back with Origin experience in Brett Hodgson.
Cons: Last year was a regression of sorts after their run to the playoffs the year before. They’re also going through a high player turnover this year, which could prove a blessing but will probably disrupt their cohesion to start with. There’s also a feeling that these players didn’t live up to their potential last season, and they have to this season.
Coach: Apart from Brian Smith, no coach has come so near, yet-so-far in the NRL like Nathan Brown. Having been blessed with talent during his time at the St George-Illawarra Dragons, he now finds himself in the lower regions of Super League with a side that didn’t live up to its potential last year. He tends to favour an attacking style of football which might suit this Giants outfit.
Captain: It’s just been announced today that Brett Hodgson has walked straight into the captaincy.
Key Man: Quit possibly Hodgson, who will need to display leadership from the off. If he’s able to establish himself as an attacking threat straight away then it will add another weapon to the quietly building Giants Armoury. He’s also likely to be the Giants’ 1st-choice kicker as well, which is a lot of responsibility to be heaped onto someone who’s only just joined the club. I suspect he’ll take it in his stride.
Young ‘un: Michael Lawrence impressed on his fleeting visits to the 1st team last season. An England Academy player, he has all the physical tools necessary to be an outstanding player. With a regular run of games at first-team level (and a curbing of some of his more erratic tendencies) he could develop into something special.
Wild Card: It’s probably a bit harsh to put Luke Robinson in this category, and on his day he’s a really effective halfback, but he’s also capable of bad days. If he’s able to play at a consistency that has hitherto avoided him so far in his career then it will be extremely beneficial to the Giants. I think he’ll enjoy David Faiumu taking some of the pressure off him and being able to use weapons like Brett Hodgson and Paul Whatuira.
Gains: Brett Hodgson, Scott Moore, Simon Finnigan, Josh Griffin, Michael Korkidas, Greg McNally, Larne Patrick, Shaun Lunt, Joe Walsh, Keale Carlile
Hodgson’s obviously the big name here, but there’s also a few players who have snuck in under the radar. Scott Moore has never quite lived up to the hype that made him the youngest player in Super League history, but he’s effective. Look out for Lunt, the Young Player of the Year in National League One last season.
Losses: Rod Jensen, Ryan Hudson, Stuart Jones, Chris Thorman, Steve Snitch, Shane Elford. John Skandalis, Gregg McNally
The Giants are losing quite a few of their trusted servants this season, even if many of them seemed to be pretty inconsistent. Perhaps the most notable departure is that of Chris Thorman, who had been both the Giants’ attacking lynchpin and also the brunt of much criticism.