First published in League Express, Monday 2nd Sept 2013
I’d like to think I laid the foundations.
But I doubt many of you would agree!
Joking aside, well done to Huddersfield for winning the Minor Premiership. This is an absolutely stunning achievement, even in an era of play-off football, and I’m absolutely delighted for Ken Davy.
Ken has given the Giants the stability and foundations that all clubs need. And when you look at the league table, it’s often the top sides that have it and the bottom sides that crave it.
When they first came into Super League, none of those who coached them in the early years – myself, Phil Veivers, Malcolm Reilly and John Kear – could make things work, although the four of us would probably argue that there was little about the club that was Super League standard other than its stadium.
When I coached them in 1998, there were so many players who didn’t even know the basics, and Malcolm tells me he experienced something similar.
It must have been a culture shock for him going from coaching Australia’s Grand Final winners to coaching Super League’s wooden spooners in the space of two years!
But when Huddersfield were relegated in 2001, and subsequently promoted straight back, they returned a different club. The ghosts of that awful Shuddersfield merger had been laid to rest and with one of the best coaches of modern times in charge, Tony Smith, there was something impressive about them, which they’ve retained ever since.
I’ve often been pilloried by their fans for saying they haven’t been good enough to be lifting silverware, and I felt that their collapse last year was quite predictable. I copped dogs’ abuse for predicting that, but they’ve put things right this year in spectacular fashion.
They could have even enjoyed success much sooner if Tony hadn’t been lured, understandably so, to Leeds. But even so, for most of the last ten years they have been a very competitive side.
They didn’t have enough stability under Nathan Brown though, on or off the field. He chopped and changed his side quite often and was always looking to go back home to Australia.
He certainly did some good work, but I think it needed someone else to take over. Even so, you couldn’t have predicted that Paul Anderson would have enjoyed a first full season as a head coach like this one.
Many Super League winners are coached by somebody in their first full year, and Giants fans will be hoping that Anderson is the next in line to achieve that.
He should be coach of the year in my opinion, and I’d be staggered if he was overlooked for the award.
Paul has brought consistency to the Giants, which is what all coaches strive for, and that’s not something that’s easy to achieve by any stretch of the imagination.
They’ve all complemented each other, and they clearly have a great team spirit.
But, at the risk of upsetting their fans again, whether they’ll win the Grand Final is open to debate. The question ‘can they handle the biggest of games?’ still has to be asked.
They have to win the Grand Final to get rid of that particularly monkey.
Danny Brough is the standout performer, and he won’t be far off in the Man of Steel stakes. If his pack is on top then he can engineer a win against anybody.
Shaun Lunt is their other great player. He’s made a huge difference since arriving back from Leeds.
Brett Ferres has been very good for them too, and Scott Grix at fullback can be absolutely quality.
Most of the players are an eight out of ten every week. It will be interesting if they can hit the nines and tens required to do well in the play-offs.
I was pleased to see Hull get back on the horse by beating Wigan on Friday night, but I can’t see any of the teams between fifth and eighth touching the big four in the play-offs.
I think Leeds will still win the Grand Final, as all their big players are coming back at just the right time.
Danny McGuire is huge for them, and it won’t take long for him to hit his straps.
As I’ve said many times, they know how to play semi-final football.
Their trip to Wigan this weekend will be very interesting, because it could influence who Huddersfield choose in the club call.
If Leeds finish fourth, then will Huddersfield be daft enough to pick them, because the team who picks Leeds always comes up empty.
Will this be the first time that common sense prevails?
A repeat of last year’s Warrington-Leeds Grand Final looks a good bet, but if the Giants pick Wigan then obviously that won’t happen.
However it pans out though, the battle for the Super League looks like it will be unmissable this year.