Huddersfield face an early test of their ability to get their minds back on business when they go to Bradford today.
The Giants clinched the League Leaders’ Shield – their first major trophy for over half a century – last weekend. Their commitments this week have included a civic reception but their coach, Paul Anderson, and their captain, Danny Brough, are both adamant that the distractions stop when they run out at Odsal this evening.
“It’s not a distraction at all,” said Anderson, a clear choice for coach of the year after his first season in charge. “If anything, it helps us to focus.”
The Giants will face Wigan – beaten 20-6 by Leeds on Thursday night – in the first round of the Super League play-offs next Thursday. Although Anderson might be tempted to rest one or two players tonight, his side need to go into the play-offs – where they have never before made any impact – with momentum on their side.
Second-placed Warrington visit Catalan Dragons, knowing they must face the in-form champions, Leeds, on Friday. Tony Smith has injury problems to juggle and may field an unfamiliar team in Perpignan. The game marks the end of the longest current career in the top flight, with the Dragons’ Steve Menzies retiring at 39. Menzies has maintained his high standards right to the last and will be difficult to replace.
London Broncos go to Hull Kingston Rovers tomorrow amid predictions this could be their last game, in Super League at least. The Broncos are set to finish bottom of the table, have no home for next season, no new signings and – potentially – no backer. After 33 years of playing in London under various names, things have rarely looked bleaker.
The situation is not much better at Wakefield. The Wildcats host their neighbours, Castleford, amid another financial crisis. One key player has gone – Tim Smith to Salford; the England winger Ben Cockayne could be next, with his former club, Hull KR, negotiating to re-sign him. “I do feel for Wakefield,” said Smith. “They’re a great bunch of lads and I just hope they can pull through.”