HUDDERSFIELD Giants coach Nathan Brown believes his side are better prepared to achieve silverware than ever before during his four-year reign.
The canny Australian, who leaves for St Helens at the end of the season, is plotting to get his side into the Carnegie Challenge Cup semi-finals when they entertain London Broncos tomorrow evening.
Giants actually reached Wembley in 2009 – his first year in charge since joining from St George Illawarra – but lost out to Warrington.
They have failed to return since but that is certainly not a sign of decline. The West Yorkshire club remain huge favourites to progress against struggling London, have since come within 80 minutes of a maiden Super League Grand Final and are currently joint-top with Wigan Warriors.
Giants are now a regular top-four club following Brown’s annual development of the squad and he feels they are more primed to succeed in the most testing of games.
“We’re improving, no doubt, both on the field and off it too,” he told the Yorkshire Post.
“Our Under-16s and 18s have now got good sides and, while the 20s still struggle a bit, there’s more to just the first team here.
“Our style has changed a little bit this season as we’ve brought in new players.
“We’ve tried at the top level to do well and come short a number of times for different reasons.
“But we’d like to think we’ve brought in players now who will help contribute to us going better in the bigger games.”
Losing out heavily to Warrington in last season’s play-offs was the sort of major anti-climax that has thwarted them in the past and undone so much previous good work.
It is something Brown will be hoping to address this term and it is unlikely they will fail in such a manner against a London side who had to battle desperately to overcome part-timers Batley Bulldogs.
Huddersfield did lose out 27-20 in Perpignan last week, against one of their likely title contenders Catalan, but it was not a defeat that unduly worried him.
It has been 50 years since Huddersfield last won a championship and, ahead of his impending departure, he added: “It’d be great to do something now.
“A lot of players have been through a lot of tough times here and then – since we’ve improved as a side – whenever you do well there’s always a bit of heartbreak in there too.
“We’ve lost some big games in past years and also won some.
“The more we practise them, the better we get. We feel like we’re well-equipped to play well when it counts this year.”
Brown, 38, insists London will not be as simplistic a hurdle as many suggest given the quality of their playing rota which includes a clutch of NRL Grand Final winners.
“They may be struggling in Super League this season but they’ve still got some very good players,” he maintained.
“When we had to battle so hard to beat them in London earlier this year (30-16) we said they’d definitely beat some teams, particularly at home. That’s proved the case. And they’ve been very competitive in the other games at The Stoop.
“London may have struggled a bit on the road but that’s not something we’ve spoken about this week.”
Ironically, Brown actually has first-hand knowledge of playing against London’s leading Australian export – the controversial Craig Gower, a veteran ex-Penrith, New South Wales and Kangaroos half-back who has made an unexpected return from Italian rugby union.
“Thinking back, I’m pretty confident I did play against Gowery,” laughed Brown, who retired from playing at the age of 27 due to a serious neck injury.
“It’ll be interesting to see what made him come back. He could have stayed in union and would have been on more money and certainly getting an easier living.
“But Gowery is a real competitor. A lot of people look at other (off-field) things he’s done over his career but the way he competes has been one of the great things I’ve admired about him. The challenge of coming back to prove to himself – and other people – that he can still do it at the elite level of RL may be one and he’s going great with London.”
While full-strength Huddersfield welcome back Challenge Cup veteran Lee Gilmour, ex-England international Tony Clubb has been selected in the Broncos’ squad after recovering from a groin injury. Karl Temata is also recalled having shaken off a back spasm.
London coach Rob Powell said: “We’ll go into the game as the underdogs against Huddersfield.
“However, on our day we know we have the ability to beat any Super League team in the competition.
“The chance of a Challenge Cup semi-final should be enough motivation to get us up for it.”