Huddersfield coach Rick Stone has refused to completely rule out the prospect of his side mounting a late-season charge on the Super League play-off places: but not before they finalise their place in the top eight this weekend.
The Giants could kick off against Leigh on Friday night already knowing they have avoided the Qualifiers, should Warrington lose to Wigan on Thursday evening.
But Stone believes it’s not impossible that Huddersfield – currently six points shy of the top four – could yet threaten a challenge at the right end of the table after their recent upturn in form.
He said: “You’d be surprised. There is still a bit of change by the time the normal competition is finished as there’s seven games left and there’s 14 more points on offer by the time we get to the next stage.
“We want to be in the to -eight and keep moving in the right direction. We can’t just be comfortable. There’s a little bit of water to go under the bridge yet in the competition but the first port of call is to get in the top eight and then we’ll reassess where we’re at after that.”
However, he did err caution over this Friday’s game against Leigh, saying: “We don’t want to look too far ahead for us. We haven’t had a couple of good games against Leigh over the last 12 months. They’re coming back to our place and have their hooker (captain Micky Higham) playing 500 games this week so I’m sure they’ll be ready to play.”
Stone celebrated his first anniversary in charge of the club on Wednesday – and he admits he’s keen to stick around as Giants coach for a good while yet after a first 12 months he dubbed an “adventure”.
“It’s been an adventure: I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I’ve had some tough moments and some frustrating ones definitely, but I’ve enjoyed the company and the competition.
“I’ve enjoyed a little bit of the difference in the game over here compared to Australia. All the boys have been pretty good and the people in Huddersfield have been tremendous as well, so I’m looking forward to enjoying it some more.”
Stone confirmed that in-form half-back Martyn Ridyard will not be able to play against his parent club on Friday. However, forward Sebastine Ikahihifo will return.