IT SEEMS not two minutes ago that the World Cup was enchanting all before it yet tomorrow night already sees the start of a new Super League season.
One person who emerged with plenty of credit from the former is Huddersfield Giants centre Leroy Cudjoe.
England may have exited the World Cup in agonising circumstances during the vital last play of their semi-final against New Zealand but he is one who can certainly look back with pride.
During the course of the tournament, the 25-year-old established himself as one of the sport’s leading three-quarters. Indeed, on the back of their extensive statistical analysis, Cudjoe was named Opta’s World Cup top centre alongside none other than Australian great Jarryd Hayne.
That involved a variety of factors including tackles made, metres made and try assists so it was no surprise either, therefore, he was also nominated for ‘International Centre of the Year’, too.
All of which has left the previously unheralded Yorkshireman eager to get going again when Huddersfield – last season’s League Leaders’ Shield winners – begin their campaign at champions Wigan Warriors tomorrow evening.
“Playing in the World Cup has definitely given me a boost of confidence and, hopefully, I’ll show that with my performances,” said Cudjoe, whose club colleagues Danny Brough (Scotland) and Brett Ferres (England) are also anticipated to produce big things in 2014 after their exploits on the global stage.
“I think individually all three of us will be expecting more of ourselves. I wouldn’t say it’s more added pressure, though; we play in a good team where everyone needs to contribute to help us get to where we want to be.”
That destination is unequivocal in their eyes: Old Trafford, Super League glory and more still.
Cudjoe, whose Huddersfield side fell just short of a maiden Grand Final last autumn, explained: “The aim is to definitely try to do what Wigan did last year and win the double or even go one better and take all three.
“Come Friday, we will be expecting a good Wigan side that’s full of confidence, having won the League and Challenge Cup last year and now about to go to Australia for World Club Challenge.
“We realise they are going to be the benchmark but we’re confident of improving once more.”
Huddersfield have not lost any of their main protagonists from last season and all three new signings – Australian forwards Antonio Kaufusi and Chris Bailey from London Broncos plus England Knights winger Jodie Broughton – are included in Paul Anderson’s 19-man squad for the trip to the DW Stadium.
Only Papua New Guinea second-row Jason Chan is unfit so they will undoubtedly field a strong side to face a Wigan team who have included their own London recruits – Dan Sarginson and Tony Clubb – plus Sam Tomkins’s illustrious replacement from the NRL, Matty Bowen, USA hero Eddy Pettybourne and John Bateman, the young second-row bought from Bradford Bulls.
England winger Josh Charnley, Super League’s top try-scorer for the last two seasons, misses out due to his recent stomach/hernia operation but is expected to be fit for their World Club Challenge meeting with Sydney Roosters on February 22.
Cudjoe, of course, came up against plenty of the NRL champions’ stars in that World Cup, including Kiwi legend Sonny Bill Williams and his New Zealand team-mate Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
As for Huddersfield’s hopes of improvement in 2014, he is succinct.
“We need to improve in the big games and be ruthless in more of our matches,” he said, the West Yorkshire club having finished top for the first time since 1932 but then losing out to Warrington Wolves in the play-off semi-final.
“We really need to kick on when we are in front. There were a few times last year when we were inconsistent in certain times of the games.
“Personally, my goals for this season are the same as they are every year; just improve as a player and do my job to the best of my ability. If I do this, I’m sure I’ll have a good year.
“Firstly, though, we have to have confidence in our systems as we go to Wigan. If we do that I’m sure we can start with a win.”
On another note, Cudjoe – who scored 12 times last season – is not the only Huddersfield-born centre doing the business for his country.
He is a friend of Luther Burrell, the ex-Leeds Carnegie player who made a try-scoring debut for England against France in their Six Nations game at Paris last weekend and who retains his place for Scotland this Saturday.
“We went to college together and played a few games together there,” recalled Cudjoe.
“He’s always had massive potential; he’s big, strong and got great skill.
“I was glad to see he’d made the England squad. I spoke to him before (the France match) wishing him good luck then sent him a tweet after. I didn’t catch much of the game as we played that day.
“I did see his try, though, which was good and I’m glad he got over on his debut. I’m sure that will be one of many for England.
“I’m always happy when people from Huddersfield go on and become successful like Cameron Jerome, Frazier Campbell and Luther plus many more. It just shows where hard work can get you no matter where you come from.”