Friends become enemies again as Crabtree targets Wembley

Eorl Crabtree
Eorl Crabtree
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Eorl Crabtree is hoping to make it third time lucky in the Challenge Cup final but knows Huddersfield will first have to outsmart a former Giants hero.

Brett Hodgson and the Warrington Wolves will stand in Huddersfield’s path on Sunday when the sides meet at the City of Salford Stadium in the Carnegie Challenge Cup semi-final.

Full-back Hodgson is a legend at the Galpharm Stadium, having captained the side to the 2009 Challenge Cup final and earned Super League’s Man of Steel Award, only the fourth Australian to win the prestigious accolade since it was introduced in 1977.

Thirty-four-year-old Hodgson now plays for Warrington and Crabtree is determined to get one over on his former team-mate, who still lives in Huddersfield.

“Brett is a great guy and very skilful,” said England international forward Crabtree.

“He knows the game probably better than anyone else I have ever met or played against.

“He is a tough character for such a small guy and he will be one of the players that we have to look out for.”

Hodgson and his former Giants team-mates will not be bantering with each other via texts before Sunday’s game (5.30pm kick-off).

“When it comes to games like this, you tend to leave each other alone a little bit,” said Crabtree, the only Giants player remaining to have played in both Challenge Cup final defeats to St Helens in 2006 and Warrington in 2009.

“There will be a little bit of banter after the game probably, but we all respect each other in the sense that we know how much it means to each other.

“I am sure if they get one over us, Brett will be one of the most hated men in town but, hopefully, that won’t be the case.”

As for Hodgson, he is wary of facing his former team-mates, even though the Wolves are flying in Super League.

“I am really looking forward to the match,” said Hodgson. “It is going to be a big game and both teams know what is at stake so the pressure will be on us all.

“It’s always good to go up against your old clubs but the fact that we are playing Huddersfield has no bearing on my preparation.

“Huddersfield haven’t been playing too well of late but they are a side that can definitely play big games and they’ll be very determined to book a place in the final so we are expecting a tough encounter.”

Much has been made of the Giants’ recent terrible form, one win from eight Super League games, but Crabtree is desperate to end his own losing streak when it comes to finals.

“I have been in two finals and lost both of them, but I have learned a lot from them as well,” he said.

“One of the things is to make the most of every opportunity I have and this is one of those occasions.

“I don’t intend to go into the game thinking I am going to get the winning try or anything like that. I just want to concentrate on giving a decent performance for my team.

“If I do that – and everybody else thinks the same way – then we stand a chance against Warrington. Hopefully, it will be third time lucky.”

Crabtree was rested last weekend with a fractured finger as the Giants were humiliated 52-6 at lowly Castleford Tigers, but believes a clear-the-air meeting this week with coach Nathan Brown added to the lure of a Wembley trip will focus Huddersfield minds on Sunday.

“I fractured my finger and just needed a break,” he said, somewhat ironically.

“Even if I had played (against Tigers) I don’t think I would have been the difference by 40 points.

“We are looking forward to this weekend and will hopefully put on a decent performance,” said the 29-year-old, the posterboy of the Giants, who signed as a 17-year-old. His picture is plastered around the Galpharm Stadium.

“That’s the good thing about sudden-death football; if you have a decent game that’s all you need and we have proved at the start of the season that we can beat the top teams.

“We need to take that belief into this game. It doesn’t really matter that we got hammered at the weekend because this week is a different game. We just need to find a bit of form, if we can do that pretty sharpish then we will be okay.

“Before we played Cas, they had been in terrible form but then absolutely battered us.

“Sometimes it’s as simple as that. If we turn up with the right motivation, which everybody should have because it’s a final we are talking about as the prize, we can rip in and have a go. The key thing is we are all together on this and give ourselves a shot.

“We are very excited. Maybe if we were just going into another league game everybody would be down. But we had a little chat (after Castleford) and came together as a team.

“We realised that we need to do something about our form and what better stage to do that than a semi-final. It’s about motivation and getting yourself up for games. This is the big one for us.

“A win this weekend can also have a knock-on effect in the league. Form snowballs. It has done for us, just in the wrong way as it has all gone downhill for us, but hopefully we can get back on track this weekend.

“There’s no reason why we can’t do it. Stats and everything go out the window in the Cup.

“It’s about who wants it most on the day. We just need to do the right things to stand a chance.”