HUDDERSFIELD Giants’ assistant coach Chris Thorman is relishing the chance to glean fresh skills from the club’s new head coach, Rick Stone, and says the squad are already lifted by the Australian’s impact.
Former Newcastle Knights chief Stone, 49, takes charge of his first game when Huddersfield host St Helens tomorrow.
He is the replacement for Paul Anderson, sacked last month, and will be aided by Thorman, who has been promoted from Under-19s coach, having impressed while aiding caretaker coach Andy Kelly in the interim.
Thorman, a former Giants captain who led the side out in their 2006 Challenge Cup final at Twickenham, has tried to give Stone as much information as possible ahead of tomorrow’s game given he has only been in the country a matter of days.
“Rick arrived Wednesday morning and came straight in from Manchester Airport,” he told The Yorkshire Post.
“He hit the ground running and started with a team meeting, field session, then some weights before viewing lots of stuff on Saints.
“I gave him a bit of a lowdown on a lot of stuff, dropped him back off at 9pm at his hotel after a good 12 hours and then picked him up again the next morning.
“We spoke about the squad but I’m not going to impress on him too much about that as he has to make his own mind up.
“But, from initial impressions, the boys have adjusted and taken to him really well.”
Huddersfield, of course, face a sizeable challenge ahead given they are set for the Qualifiers next month and a battle to hang on to their Super League place.
Stone, who coached Fiji to the 2013 World Cup semi-finals and initially worked under current England chief Wayne Bennett at Newcastle, is already well briefed on what is required.
Thorman, 35, added: “He’s got a great reputation and already he seems to be able to manage the group.
“He’s got some different ideas and is just a really likeable fella.
“He wants the best for this group and they seem to have picked up on that.
“We’ll know more on Sunday but, going forward, I’m looking to get different perspectives and Rick certainly offers that.
“Given the people he’s worked with, I’d be stupid not to listen to him so I’m excited for my future here and this group going forward.”
As a new era begins for the Fartowners, Thorman paid tribute to Anderson, who had been in charge for the last four years and led them to the 2013 League Leaders’ Shield.
“Firstly, with Paul, as I said at the time, he was the guy who gave me my first opportunity back at the club,” he said.
“I’ve always been grateful for that.
“But once Paul left and I got the chance to step up, I really enjoyed that experience.
“I’ve got to speak highly of how the club dealt with the situation, too. They didn’t rush or panic, let us (Kelly, Thorman and Luke Robinson) deal with the immediate stuff, then decided on their man.
“Once they’d done that, they quickly acted, getting him here and making him aware of the situation we’re in, what we need to do to get more home games than away matches, who we might be playing in the Qualifiers etcetera.
“Obviously, I’ll have to help Rick with some of that as I’m not so sure he’ll know much about Leigh, Batley, Featherstone or whoever it is.
“But we’re looking forward to it all now.”
They face a St Helens side who have been strangely inconsistent this year.
Indeed, Huddersfield vanquished them 48-20 on their last meeting at Magic Weekend in May, a win that many thought could turn the Giants’ season but might cost Saints coach Keiron Cunningham his job.
He survived, though, and it was Anderson who exited.
“I think they’re definitely more of a threat with Jonny Lomax in the team,” said Thorman.
“They are playing a bit unorthodox with Jordan Turner and Jon Wilkin at half-back with Luke Walsh and Theo Fages out and Travis Burns loaned to Leigh.
“But they still have lots of threat all over the park.
“Alex Walmsley gets the ball rolling for them and he is a big, offensive threat with his carries so we have to make sure we do a job on him and Lomax with the ball and his kick returns.
“But what we had already said, and what Rick has emphasised, is we’re very much focusing on what we can do well.
“When we have a strong squad to pick from, I’d like to think we’d be a handful for any side and if our attitude and effort is good we’ll be confident of giving a good performance Sunday.”
Huddersfield were pipped 20-19 in the last minute by Hull KR last week but had beaten Salford Red Devils and leaders Hull FC while Kelly, Thorman and Robinson – the new Under-19s coach – took charge.
They are bolstered by the return of ex-Castleford prop Craig Huby and former Kiwi second-row Sebastine Ikahihifo *********** tomorrow after long-term injuries plus winger Gene Ormsby who has joined from Warrington.
Thorman said: “Seb’s a big signing from the NRL but he’s only managed two games so far so we’re looking forward to having him in contention.
“Gene Ormsby’s chomping at the bit to get going having not played too much Super League this season.
“As for Chubbs (Huby), he does deserve a change in luck. He’s done it tough for obvious reasons – injury and personal stuff – and we’re really excited to have him back as he’s one of the best front-rows in the competition on his day.”