Giants shrug off Penkywicz

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The Independent Online

Huddersfield have had this season's progress interrupted twice over the last week - once by a 54-10 beating by Bradford and once by the news that Sean Penkywicz will not be able to play for the next two years.

Huddersfield have had this season's progress interrupted twice over the last week - once by a 54-10 beating by Bradford and once by the news that Sean Penkywicz will not be able to play for the next two years.

Penkywicz, a hooker or half-back who was an ever-present for the Giants in Super League last season, has become the latest victim of the Rugby League's determination to root out the creeping menace of drug use within the game. Like Bradford's Ryan Hudson, he returned a sample which tested positive for the banned steroid stanazolol. His punishment is identical, as is the attitude of his club, who cancelled his contract.

Useful player though Penkywicz has been, he is a less serious loss to Huddersfield than Hudson has been to the Bulls. They had no obvious cover at hooker, whereas the Giants have brought in a specialist in that role, Brad Drew, who has been showing outstanding form of late. They also have a range of other options, with Paul March and Stanley Gene moving there during matches and Paul White sometimes coming off the bench to do damage from dummy-half with his pace. At 23, Penkywicz is young enough to serve his time and come back into the game at some club or other. In the meantime, he should not be missed unduly.

Huddersfield have not wasted any time in bringing a replacement - although not a direct one - into their squad. Ryan Clayton had the unfortunate experience of playing in relegated sides - Halifax and Castleford - in successive Super League seasons, so it is to be hoped that he has rediscovered the winning habit during his stint in France with Villefranche.

Despite being in the wrong place at the wrong time so far in his career, he is a centre or second-rower of genuine potential and Jon Sharp has put him straight into his squad for the match against St Helens today. He is unlikely to feature, but he will do before long.

The last time Huddersfield played Saints, in the Challenge Cup earlier this month, Sharp was so annoyed by some refereeing decisions that he brought his lap-top into the press conference to illustrate his point. Further study of that match will underline Saints' threat from anywhere on the field, especially now that Jamie Lyon is back from attending the birth of his first child in Australia.

Elsewhere today, Paul King will play his first game of the season for Hull at Warrington. The Great Britain squad prop has been out of action for six months following knee surgery. "It has been a massively frustrating time for me watching on the sidelines," he said. "Warrington is a difficult game to come back in, because they have a very tough pack."

The London Broncos must find a replacement at Wakefield for their scrum-half, Thomas Leuluai, who is on his way back to Britain after playing in New Zealand's defeat by Australia on Friday. Mark McLinden is likely to switch from hooker.

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