IF – and there is a sizeable emphasis on the word – Todd Carney plays against Huddersfield Giants tomorrow it will be only the second time Catalans Dragons’ superstar signing has played away from Perpignan all season.
When the French club secured the signature of the brilliant but often controversial Australian stand-off last September he was rightly being hailed as one of the best overseas talents to land in Super League.
Carney, indeed, has some pedigree given he was a Junior Kangaroos captain and went on to win the prestigious Dally M Medal as the NRL’s best player while reaching a Grand Final with Sydney Roosters in 2010.
He made his solitary Test appearance that season, too, and was named the RLIF International Player of the Year.
New South Wales State of Origin honours followed, but so did far too many off-field indiscretions leading to the former Canberra Raiders and Cronulla Sharks star eventually being cast away to Europe.
However, a succession of injuries has seen Carney miss more than half of Catalans’ games so far and often he has been named in a 19-man squad without appearing on the pitch.
This said, when the 28-year-old does play, invariably they do not lose and also amass points seemingly for fun.
From his six Super League appearance up to present – and of the five at home – they have won four and drawn the other, scoring an average of more than 40 points. The other match, and Carney’s only appearance on English soil, came during the 33-22 loss at Hull FC in March but he was injured after 35 minutes.
Huddersfield stand-off Danny Brough knows a thing or two about talented playmakers.
On Carney, who was brilliant in Catalans’ 58-16 vanquishing of Wigan Warriors a week ago, the 2013 Man of Steel said: “He is a class act.
“He can throw the ball 30 metres each side and is a really good player. He’s a tough half-back who likes to go to the line and create opportunities for his mates.
“He’s definitely their key man and I think (Scott) Dureau’s playing his best rugby outside him at scrum-half now, too.
“His kicking game is good and they are working well together.
“Catalans are even a good team when Carney doesn’t play and Dureau takes over so having him is just another piece to the jigsaw.
“They do have quality all over the park so we have to step up and be a lot better than we have been in our last two games.”
Catalans, of course, have a turgid away record having won just once in seven trips this term and that was at bottom-placed Wakefield Trinity.
But they will hope Carney – again, if he plays – can change all that when they arrive at relative neutral ground for Magic Weekend in Newcastle.
Huddersfield, knocked out of the play-offs at home by the French club last season, are desperate to sort their own issues.
Paul Anderson’s side may be up to fourth and be unbeaten in their last five league games, but they are the first to admit they are far from fluent.
“I hope we can kick on,” admitted Scotland international Brough.
“We are winning games but not playing brilliantly. We’re looking forward to getting three league wins on the bounce (Huddersfield lost at Leeds in the Challenge Cup between league victories over Salford and Castleford).
“But I do just hope it starts to click. The thing is I don’t know when that’s going to be.
“You can go a whole season and not click and up to now we are the team that’s done that.
“I think we’ve played one decent game at Warrington and even that wasn’t the smartest.”
Anderson has recalled Jamie Ellis after dropping the half-back for the trip to his former club Castleford.
Back-row Oli Roberts, who did not feature at Wheldon Road, drops out in the only change to their 19-man squad.
Catalans are without prop Jeff Lima, who is suspended, while centres Vincent Duport, Ben Pomeroy and Ben Garcia are all injured.
Winger Mathias Pala replaces Damien Cardace, the solitary change from the 19 that beat Wigan last time out.