Hard to imagine that Huddersfield v Wigan in a league
game could be bigger than last week's knockout Challenge Cup match
against St Helens but I suppose this game is.
1st v 2nd is what we have and it's obviously a big
game for Wigan ahead of another meeting with St Helens at the
Magic Weekend, then back to back trips to Leeds and Catalan.
A win here would certainly take the pressure off in
the fixtures to follow, but I think the bigger pressure is on
Huddersfield. Can they prove they can genuinely compete for the
Super League title and/or the Challenge Cup?
I mean here's a fact that should make them genuine
title contenders. Since Nathan Brown became their coach in 2009,
in Super League regular seasons Huddersfield have only achieved
one point less that Leeds, who have won two titles in that period.
Overall in that time frame Wigan are top having
amassed 137 points, Saints 130, Warrington 127, Leeds 122 and
Huddersfield 121. Looking at that, you cannot argue that
Huddersfield have competed consistently against the big boys in
terms of points, but yet personally I have never taken them
seriously as title contenders and still don't to be honest.
Why? Because I don't think they have produced a performance in
all that time to prove they can do it. They've been good at the
start of seasons at times and good at the back end of the season
at times. I mean they deservedly beat us in Round 1 at Wigan this
year but I don't think that meant anything in the grand scheme of
things. They've never put a full season together and I'd argue
that it is now, this period coming up, the mid season, that is
most important for a side that needs to prove itself to itself
that it can take the next big step towards winning trophies.
Huddersfield have never, off my memory, had a big mid
season away win that has made you sit up and notice, whether in
league and cup. I mean last mid season the Giants lost away at
Wigan, Warrington and St Helens and miserable failure in all three
of those challenges is, for me, why their season eventually wilted
into nothingness. They also got humbled out of the cup away at
Castleford last mid season as well, whilst Warrington spanked them
at home the previous year in that competition.
Some may argue that Leeds proved that you perhaps
don't need a big regular season, but they had past history and
experience to draw upon - Huddersfield don't have that. But what
the Giants do have is favourable mid season fixtures this
campaign. If they can beat us on Friday, their fixture list after
this game looks pretty good. Salford, Widnes, Hull KR, London,
Hull FC, Castleford and Wakefield is a good run of games.
That easy mid season leaves them with St Helens,
Catalan, Warrington and Leeds to play in four of the last six
rounds, but it's a run of games though that should light up the
importance of this match to them. And perhaps to us also?
I mean for us to get two points clear of Huddersfield
would be like getting a two game advantage over them in a way with
our points difference looking so healthy. Might seem daft to say
with 13 games still to play after this one, but it could
well be the difference between chasing and finishing them off for
the rest of the season. Could Huddersfield win two more games than
us in the remaining 13 matches if we beat them on Friday? Our
record of being the most consistent side over the past three and a
half years suggests probably not.
So that's another reason it puts pressure on
Huddersfield. A loss to Wigan would be a another mid season
potential confidence boosting game they'll have failed in, but
also it would leave them with a lot of work to do to claw back 1st
place. Not only chasing Wigan but also probably Warrington as
well. They'd then have a load of tough games around the Challenge
Cup climax before possible play off trips away to Wigan or
I might be being a bit arse tit trying to make this
point but my basic bottom line is that victory and defeat for
Huddersfield in this match is going to be such a fine margin
towards the difference of anticipation for the rest of their
season. Lose and they put pressure on themselves. Win and they
face a good run of fixtures with pressure off. Massive difference
on one result I think! Particularly for a club, like I said
earlier, that needs to prove to they can make the step up to
As for us, we know how we will perform. and that is
very well indeed. We couldn't be in better form as we look for our
9th consecutive victory and we know how much we love playing away
from the DW Stadium. We've only lost 6 of our last 45 matches away
in all competitions to prove that fact! Four of those six losses
have come at Catalan, St Helens, Warrington and Leeds which is no
shame. It's very rare that we turn out and have a shocking
display. Generally if we get beat, we get beat by better
opposition than ourselves.
So it is set up perfectly for a ding-dong battle in
front of the tv cameras. This is the litmus test for the Giants
though. Their will be no bigger fillet for them than seeing off
Wigan this Friday. I'll be going to the Galpharm looking for them
to impress me to be honest. Last year we went with a weakened side
in March and won 20-6, in a match that was also a winner goes top
battle. Huddersfield failed that night. They dominated us for long
periods but in the end lost despite us having the likes of Sam
Tomkins, Martin Gleeson, Pat Richards, Paul Deacon, Stuart
Fielden, Joel Tomkins and Brett Finch all absent.
So can the Giants do a number on us? If they do I
will sit up and take notice. If they don't, I'll be writing their
title chances off again to be honest, and putting my money on
Wigan seeing out the league leaders shield, no matter what happens
in the three games following this one.