Super League passes its half-way point this weekend with a number of clubs still defying all pre-season predictions. Huddersfield might have started the season well-fancied, but seven defeats on the run cast them adrift at the foot of the table two months ago.
Their startling transformation has now brought them a symmetrical sequence of seven victories - the latest of them, by 36-12 over Bradford on Friday night, taking them into fourth place. Their coach, Jon Sharp, claims to have always been completely confident that the Giants would come good, but possibly not in such dramatic style as this. "I owe a lot to my backroom staff," he said. "I'd like to dedicate this victory to them. They've been magnificent the way they stayed strong."
Sharp also picked out two of his players who he believes should come into the frame for Great Britain's international against France next month. Eyebrows were raised when he switched Chris Thorman from stand-off to full-back, but now he can describe him as second only to St Helens' Paul Wellens in that position. "And I'm Stephen Wild's biggest fan. There aren't many better back-row forwards around and he's the nearest thing we've got in this country to Nathan Hindmarsh."
Comparisons with the Australian considered the world's best forward are flattering, but Wild has undeniably been in brilliant form. Not only did he score in a sixth successive match on Friday, but his chase back to deny Dave Halley a try was the stuff of unquenchable enthusiasm.
The other side to exceed expectations have been Hull KR. Widely expected to have a long wait for their first win, they have recorded six already, including two over Wigan at the JJB Stadium - ask the fixture planners how that can happen - the second of them by 12-10 on Friday night. That victory took them above their neighbours Hull, and you could have got long odds against that being the pecking order at this stage.
After finishing as runners-up to St Helens last season this was supposed to be Hull's year, but their form has been patchy to say the least. The loss of Paul Cooke to Rovers has not helped, and he was a key figure in the Robins' derby win in Cardiff and that second triumph over Wigan.
Hull can start to put things right against Leeds in today's only Super League game. It is not too late for them to earn themselves a high finish for the play-offs, but there are obvious weaknesses to be addressed. With Cooke gone and Richard Horne woefully out of form, there is no direction from half-back, Peter Sharp often relying on youngsters such as Anthony Thackeray or Tommy Lee.
There have been denials all round that Danny Brough could be on his way back from Castleford, but they need a scrum-half, and the likes of the Australian Brett Kimmorley will not be available until next year.Reuse content