AFTER a dozen years playing for Castleford Tigers it will inevitably be strange for Craig Huby tonight as the Huddersfield Giants prop faces his former club for the first time.
He was at Wheldon Road as both man and boy but the forward maintains there will be no sense of sentiment as he takes to the field in the televised Super League contest as there is simply no room for it in the modern era.
Castleford-raised Huby swapped West Yorkshire clubs last autumn and finally got his first win for Huddersfield in Friday’s 24-12 success against Widnes Vikings.
At the same time, his old side were also securing their maiden victory of the year, an eye-catching 42-14 rout of Wigan Warriors at his erstwhile stomping ground.
It is remarkable that both teams, who each finished just a point behind leaders St Helens last season, have taken fully four games to get off the mark.
“It is strange but it’s a tough comp’ this year,” Huby told The Yorkshire Post, the RFL’s hopes for Super League’s restructure bringing greater competitiveness certainly seeming to be on the right track.
“As it says, every game does matter. For us, obviously we weren’t on in round one (Giants lost 19-0 to Hull FC) but we’ve been building and building and hopefully now we’ve got the momentum we need to keep rolling.
“Cas are similar and it’s just one of those things. It happens to a lot of teams.
“We were in the same boat but we’re a quality team and there’s a lot in Super League.
“It shows what can happen; anyone can beat anyone on their day.”
True. Nonetheless, it means this evening’s fixture is of added importance as both clubs seek to gain some much-needed impetus after their stalled start.
Ball-playing front-row Huby made nearly 200 Super League appearances for Castleford after debuting aged just 16 in 2003, quickly ingratiating himself with their support for his committed, purposeful displays.
He still lives in the town but insisted: “It’s just another game.
“I probably will get some banter beforehand but it’s something I’m looking forward to.
“I’ll just take it on the chin and I know what it’s going to be so it’s not new to me.
“Everyone has been asking me about it and what it will be like playing Cas.
“But when I cross the line with this Huddersfield shirt on I’m a Giants player.
“They are just another team we play. I’ve got a job to do no matter who we face and we’ll try to take the two points.”
The 28-year-old is certainly looking like he is now finding his feet in Huddersfield colours, offering their pack another variation with his off-load game.
“The first couple of weeks was about getting to know the boys on the field but now I feel pretty comfortable and, hopefully, it shows in my performances,” he said, having started against Hull and in defeats at Wigan and Leeds before prospering last week.
“We probably started a little slow against Widnes but we were patient and knew if we went toe-to-toe with them we’d get the result.
“It showed towards the end when we stuck to what we do best that we ground out a win.
“But Cas will be exactly the same as us. It just boosts your morale getting that first victory and it just shows your systems, what you’ve been practicing all pre-season, do actually work.
“They’ve been the same as us, unfortunate in a few results.
“We’d not got the bounce of the ball but got a couple of lucky tries versus Widnes that in previous games we just didn’t get.
“I was happy to hear Cas had won so well – I’m a Cas lad – although will be very happy if we find out Thursday they have reached their peak v Wigan.
“Whatever happens, I’m sure it will be a very entertaining game.”
Castleford coach Daryl Powell, who hopes to have prop Andy Lynch back from injury, concurs.
“Huddersfield have made a similar start to us,” he said.
“They are at home so they will be pretty confident and they’ve got some people who know a bit about us, so it should be an interesting game.
“They are a big side – (Eorl) Crabtree, Huby and (Craig) Kopczak are big people and (Ukuma) Ta’ai isn’t small either, but our pack has done pretty well.
“Catalans, St Helens and Wigan are physical teams and we’ve fronted up pretty well.”