PAUL ANDERSON is perhaps doing himself an injustice when he says he’s had it “plain sailing” so far in his tenure as Huddersfield Giants head coach.
He has had a variety of issues at different times to contend with since taking over from Nathan Brown in July 2012 but, admittedly, arguably none as difficult as this current one.
The West Yorkshire club, top-four regulars under Anderson’s command, are joint-bottom of Super League after losing all three of their opening games amid the backdrop of a crippling injury crisis.
To add to it all, they next head to treble-winners Leeds Rhinos tomorrow night although that offers a new experience, too, compared to previous years.
The defending champions are, bizarrely, the only side below Huddersfield in the table having conceded 100 points in their first trio of pointless fixtures to be left propping the rest up.
“As a coach I’ve had it plain sailing so far; we’ve been near the top and it’s been more about good news than bad,” insisted Anderson, having reeled off another injury bulletin, scrum-half Jamie Ellis the latest to be sidelined, this one for up to 10 weeks having dislocated his AC joint in Sunday’s 36-18 home loss to Widnes Vikings.
“The reality of it at the moment is that if injuries were caused in training we could get some responsibility on it. But we’ve got one bloke injured in a game last year, Craig Huby broke his hand which can happen at any point, and we’re not on our own.
“We are very light with our squad with nine or ten players missing at the moment. We’ve got to try and get a way through it.
“The outcome on Jamie isn’t good. He’s seeing a shoulder surgeon in Manchester and he’ll be out for around eight to 10 weeks but it’s whether he’ll need surgery or not.”
Thankfully, though, there is a firm belief that captain Danny Brough will return at Headingley tomorrow, the influential stand-off having been out since suffering a dead leg in the opening night loss at St Helens.
Anderson maintained: “We won’t rush anyone; Broughy has a chance, because he’s trained today (Wednesday) so we’ll see how he rocks up tomorrow (Thursday). He’s not ahead of schedule or anything like that – we knew he’d had a chance for this week – but we won’t push it at all.
“If he goes out there and tears his quad after suffering a dead leg then he’ll be out for 10 or 12 weeks as opposed to just waiting one more week.
“We’ve got lots of options. (England centre) Leroy (Cudjoe) has been in there a fair bit, Jake Connor has done bits and bats in the halves so we’ve got choices.
“They’re not our preferred options if that makes sense, though.
“We’ve got guys who can play in numerous positions but it’s like solving one problem and creating another when you move people around. We’ll see how Broughy comes through, but I’m confident he’ll be right.”
For their part, Leeds have a decent slab of their salary cap missing tomorrow, too, as the unlikeliest of bottom-two meetings – Rhinos finished first and Giants third last term – takes place between the West Yorkshire rivals.
Despite all those injuries, Anderson is relishing the prospect.
“It’s a great place to play,” he said.
“Everyone talks about Headingley being their fortress but I’ve always enjoyed going there.
“You always get a good game, it’s a big game and Leeds like throwing the ball around. They’ve got their injuries and both teams are desperate for a win.”
The game will also see Brett Ferres, the Huddersfield vice-captain and England second-row who was sold to Leeds in January, make his first appearance against his former club after a controversial exit.
Given both club’s slothenly start to the year, that sub-plot has almost been forgotten.
Anderson said: “I’m not interested in Brett Ferres or the reception he’ll get – I couldn’t care less about it. It is what it is, and we’ve moved on. Historically it’s a top-three tie and we’ll figure some ways to come up with a win and try and play – we’ve just got to do that; just play.”
Although the cap space from Ferres’ sudden departure is still available to spend, and even given their injury plight, the club insist they will not rush into making new signings. “We’ve got to make sure we don’t panic in regards to recruitment,” said Anderson.
“We’re trying on the recruitment front – I can guarantee you that – but it’s coming up to Easter, and teams aren’t as willing to let people leave. We know within the next couple of weeks we’ll see the real Giants out there.
“We’re light at the moment but hopefully Joe Wardle, Kyle Wood and Eorl Crabtree will all be out there in the next week or two.”