AFTER battling back from two years of injury torment, Huddersfield Giants’ new arrival Stuart Fielden is ready to remind people why he once commanded a world-record transfer fee.
The former Great Britain prop makes his debut in the friendly against Widnes Vikings tomorrow, eager to start making up for lost time after seeing the end of his Wigan career ravaged by personal setbacks.
Fielden, who joined Warriors from Bradford Bulls for a massive £450,000 in June, 2006, has played just one first-team game since February, 2011 following knee surgery and a torn pectoral muscle.
It came as little surprise when he was not offered a new deal at the DW Stadium, but the 33-year-old insists Huddersfield will reap the benefits of bringing him back to West Yorkshire.
“I played a few 20s games the back end of last year with Wigan and in Super League against Saints,” he recalled to the Yorkshire Post.
“I’m perfectly fit and can’t wait to play really.
“A change is as good as a rest and, obviously, I had a long rest at Wigan but the change brings enthusiasm as well.”
Huddersfield hope Fielden’s vast experience – he won three Grand Finals with Bradford, another at Wigan plus various Challenge Cup and World Club Challenge successes with the Odsal club – married with his aggressive style will help develop them into a more consistent force in 2013.
The Giants, infamously, topped Super League last May only to tail off spectacularly before edging into the play-offs where they again failed to strike.
They have garnered an unwanted reputation as a club that promises much but delivers little, something Fielden is hoping to overturn during his two-year contract.
“People don’t expect us to do anything,” he said. “That’s a bonus as of the 14 finals I’ve played in being an underdog is always good. There’s less pressure.
“Huddersfield have backed up the perception for two years where they’ve been really good for two-thirds, then the wheels have come off; the car’s gone careering down the hill on fire and they’ve failed. People are expecting them to be the same now, but I know it’s not the case.
“I think we’re going to do really, really well and upset a lot of predictions.”
Fielden concedes he has been impressed by the levels of professionalism at John Smith’s Stadium where former Bulls team-mate Paul Anderson is beginning his first full season in charge after Nathan Brown’s sacking last July.
“I wasn’t here last year so I don’t know what it was like,” he said.
“I’ve got an idea from the lads what the environment was like, but all I can do is talk about what we have now and that is a massive, massive intensity in training, discipline and everything.
“I was surprised because I didn’t expect it.
“You have such high standards at Wigan of discipline and being meticulous across the board.
“I’m not saying other teams don’t but they are a pinnacle and to win anything you have to be like that. Yet some of the intensity here at Huddersfield has been higher still.”
Halifax-born Fielden is confident he can recapture his top form and insists he never thought his career was over.
“I’ve been asked that a lot but the simple answer is ‘no’,” he maintains. “Not for one second did I not believe I could come back.
“The pectoral was apparently one of the worst injuries as effectively it’s joining a tendon to a bone. But ‘Madge’ Maguire, probably the best coach I’ve ever had, said ‘if anyone can do it you can’.
“It didn’t bother me one bit. Obviously, you’re absolutely low when it happens. You realise you’ve ruptured a pec’ and that’s nearly a year out.
“You then do a micro fracture which is anything up to 21 weeks out, too, so you’re down in the dumps. Anyone is.
“But, at the same time, I had a great medical team there, a great set of lads and you pick yourself up and crack on.”
Fielden has certainly battled back to prove his class on more than one occasion before.
At times during his Wigan career he did not live up to that suffocating price tag.
He was inspirational as he helped save them from relegation in 2006 but later that year, being floored by Australian prop Willie Mason in Great Britain’s famous victory in Sydney, seemed to set in motion a drastic fall in Fielden’s form.
However, Fielden enjoyed a renaissance in 2010 when he returned to his commanding best, driving Wigan to their first Grand Final success in more than a decade and rightfully earning a recall to the international scene after a four-year absence.
He won many of his Bradford trophies alongside prop colleague Anderson as part of the ‘Awesome Foursome’ including Joe Vagana and current Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott.
What is it like now having his one-time fellow enforcer handing out the orders?
“I can still have a little bit of a joke with him but when it comes down to it he’s my boss so I can’t really rib him too much – not at all really and certainly not in front of the lads as that would undermine him.
“He’s the boss and I’m certainly buying into everything he’s bringing in.
“I firmly believe we’ll be contenders for the Grand Final and Challenge Cup. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here.”