Giants wary of Goliath reputation

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The Independent Online

You have to admire Huddersfield's reluctance to bow to their reduced circumstances. They might have sunk to their true playing standard by being relegated to the Northern Ford Premiership, but, in other respects, they continue to behave like a Super League club.

This week, for instance, the Giants took media and sponsors to lunch at an upmarket Italian restaurant. In amongst the pasta, the difference between them and their NFP rivals was obvious ­ their players were available in the middle of the day.

Huddersfield decided that they would continue to pay full-time contracts ­ the only club in the NFP to do so ­ but their chief executive, Ralph Rimmer, emphasises that this is only a one-season commitment. Even more so than last season, their players are playing for their futures.

That challenge begins today at Doncaster, who will be a good measure of the pressure the Giants will be put under.As their coach, Tony Smith, admits, they will be the side that everyone wants to beat. "We will be the big scalp," he says. "And then you have to adapt to a different environment. We have retained some good players, but, in NFP terms, they are the least experienced players in the competition."

Some of Huddersfield's younger players, who have known little but defeat in Super League, should blossom at a lower level, while the retention of Stanley Gene, David Atkins and Steve McNamara gives them extra quality.

There are some problems, however. Gene will be going home for five weeks to Papua New Guinea and the club's one permitted overseas quota player, Heath Cruckshank, has been refused a work permit.

Their ability to train by day, when their rivals will be working, should give them an advantage over the 10-month campaign that lies ahead, so opponents will feel the best time to knock them off is early.

Doncaster today could be a case in point. They have had to restructure after their latest financial crisis, but have brought in Super League players in Martin Moana, Jason Lee and Marvin Golden.

They pride themselves on making their home ground at Belle Vue a "house of pain" for opponents, so they could be the ideal meeters and greeters to welcome Huddersfield to life in the lower flight.