Giants look for morale boost to see in campaign

Dave Hadfield
Saturday 22 February 2003 01:00

Although much of the attention at the start of the Super League season will be on how the leading clubs perform, the most significant matches could be those involving sides who are expected to struggle.

The Huddersfield coach, Tony Smith, admits that this evening's clash with Warrington is a crucial one for his promoted team, with Wigan, Leeds and St Helens lined up in their next three matches.

Lose tonight and it could be a long wait for their first points, something that is not lost on the Giants' captain, Steve McNamara. "The last time around, we went a long time before we picked up any points in Super League and it would be great to come out of the blocks, get two points and sit joint top for a couple of hours," he said.

The Warrington side that stands between them and that aspiration has made no rash promises about this season, but, under Paul Cullen, there is a more businesslike mood about them. For their opening game, they have Rob Smyth recovered from gastroenteritis to take his place on the wing.

Tomorrow's games see four former Leeds players – Dean Lawford, Anthony Farrell and the recently discarded Ryan Sheridan and Andy Hay – in Widnes' line-up at Headingley. Wayne McDonald and the hugely promising Ryan Bailey keep their starting places in the Leeds front-row, even though Barrie McDermott and Danny Ward are fit again.

It has been an emotional week at Wigan with the funerals of two players from the club's Academy team. Paul Johnson, the elder brother of one of them, has yet to decide whether he will play for the first team at Castleford tomorrow.

London Broncos have Mat Toshack, Francis Stephenson and Bill Peden back from injury to play at Halifax. Peden, who won two Australian Grand Finals with Newcastle, will be making his debut for the club.

Hull travel to Wakefield without the suspended Jason Smith and Richard Fletcher.

Australia will play in New Zealand and France or Russia before coming to Britain next autumn for the Test series against Great Britain in November.

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