When you think about Huddersfield’s team, there’s a good chance that the first name that pops into your head is Danny Brough.
A Man of Steel, a three-time Albert Goldthorpe Medal recipient, a Challenge Cup winner and a captain both domestically and internationally. There is no disputing the 33-year-old’s capabilities.
This, after all, is a man that was voted the world’s third best player back in 2013, with only Sonny Bill Williams and Greg Inglis ranking above him. That is how highly he is regarded in the game.
But, ahead of Huddersfield’s do-or-die showdown with fellow Super League strugglers Hull KR, the Scotland international’s place in the Huddersfield team is being questioned for the first time.
‘If we can shut Brough down, we’ll win’ has become a quirky yet common remark in the away terraces at the John Smith’s Stadium. While that is unfair on Brough’s teammates, it’s an understandable thought process given the countless games the halfback has won single-handedly.
However, Huddersfield’s impressive victory over league leaders Hull FC last week proved that the Giants can play without the Scotland international as they put on their best performance since the club’s Magic Weekend hammering of St Helens.
Ryan Brierley was the man who replaced the suspended Brough in that game, and playing in his preferred position, the 24-year-old struck up a good relationship with Jamie Ellis in the halves, which gave Jake Connor the freedom to put on a brilliant display in his preferred full-back position. With Brough not on kicking duties, Huddersfield were more unpredictable, allowing all three players to express themselves without the the former captain pulling the strings.
Garry Schofield’s recent criticism of Brough and Ellis, who claimed they were the worst halfback pairing in Super League, was rubbished in certain quarters. However, a look at this year’s stats tells a tale. Huddersfield have managed just two victories with their primary halfbacks playing together this year, while Ellis’ good form in the opening weeks of the season came when Brough was injured.
For whatever reason, the partnership between Brough and Ellis appears to be misfiring this season, and with the likes of Brierley and Kyle Wood available to play in that position, it would be worthwhile trying out different combinations.
Andy Kelly, and whoever follows him in the Huddersfield hotseat, could give Brough a different halfback partner instead of Ellis. But in the short-term, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Ellis and Brierley given more game time to work on their partnership. Kelly said in is weekly press conference that the team needs stability, perhaps a hint that he will stick with the same team that defeated Lee Radford’s side last week, which would mean a Huddersfield team without Brough.
While that appears a bold move given his undoubted talents, the team must always come first, especially with the Giants still holding faint hopes of a top eight spot.