Huddersfield Giants’ head coach Paul Anderson is adamant his success-starved club can emulate the achievements of prolific champions Leeds Rhinos both now and in the long-term.
They venture across to Headingley tonight as the current leaders of Super League, hoping to extend their early advantage over rivals who sit in fifth.
Huddersfield – who have not won a league championship since 1962 – are renowned for starting well and then faltering, but Anderson insists they are ready to remedy that ill.
He acknowledges Leeds are the “model to follow” after their unprecedented success of six titles in the last seven years.
But Anderson equally remembers his own time at Headingley as a young player in the early 1990s when the famous club were known as big-spending under-achievers.
It needed a major change in culture for Leeds to emerge from those barren years, turning their attention instead to a fruitful academy system, and he believes the Giants are undergoing their own heartening transformation.
“There was a bunch of youngsters just after my time at Leeds that included the likes of Marcus Vassilakopoulos, Paul Cook, Matt Schultz and Francis Cummins,” he told the Yorkshire Post.
“A lot of them fell by the wayside because Leeds bought in people like Ellery (Hanley), Mike O’Neill, Richie Eyres and Harvey Howard.
“When I was there they were signing players like (All Blacks) John Gallagher and Craig Innes.
“Yet, when you look at the side now that’s been going so long, they completely flipped it.
“Sinfield, Burrow, McGuire and Jones-Buchanan all came through and now, again, there’s Watkins, Jones-Bishop, Ablett and Ward.
“When you’ve got players like that it’s alright to add in the odd superstar like Jamie Peacock, too.
“One thing we have neglected in the past at Huddersfield is regards our juniors.
“Leeds, Wigan and Saints all reward theirs, but we have not done that as much.
“We’re improving though and have six young players in our 19s now from our juniors while Michael Lawrence, Jermaine McGillvary, Leroy Cudjoe and Eorl Crabtree are all players that have come through our system.
“(Head of youth) Peter Riding is desperate to get more coming through and that’s our challenge.
“But, overall at Huddersfield, we’re improving and if I didn’t think we could win something, I wouldn’t be here.
“There’s been a large investment at this club, we don’t want for anything at first-grade and there’s no point setting top four and major finals as goals; that should be a given every year.
“Our aim is to be as good as we possibly can every week and put in the performance we are capable of. The rest will follow.”
Huddersfield’s 100 per cent start was ambushed by Bradford Bulls on Sunday, who vanquished them 43-18 on Giants’ territory.
It proved a stark reminder of the work Giants still need to do, but Anderson is confident they can respond at Headingley tonight.
“When the players came in for training on Monday morning, you could tell they’d have loved to have played again on Monday evening,” he said.
“Everybody wanted to right the wrongs themselves so from my point of view I haven’t had to say much at all.
“That is the message I got – not the message I gave – and it is pleasing when you don’t have to pull your teeth out to raise people up.
“Everyone loves to win, but if you keep winning and you’re not playing well it can sometimes paper over the cracks.
“Sometimes you have to get beat, like we did last week, to actually realise that you need to knuckle down, and the lads have all done that this week.”
They are also encouraged by their recent record at Headingley where, after a 51-year wait, they have won on their last two excursions.
“There is no bigger challenge than to go to the champions, especially when they are in the form that they are at the moment,” he said.
“They are just grinding out wins and working hard for each other, playing like Leeds do so we know it will be tough, but we are up for the challenge.
“We have won four from five and the way we are travelling at the minute – in terms of results – means we deserve to stick our chests out and lift our heads high.”