Prospects flourish for Fairbank as he follows in family footsteps

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The latest name in the famous Fairbank rugby league family has vowed to ensure he makes the most of his chance at forging a career in the game.

Remarkably, Huddersfield Giants’ Jacob Fairbank is the fourth generation of his gifted clan to feature as a professional player.

It was fitting that the performance which brought him to the attention of the wider audience came at Wigan last weekend, a side for whom his great-grandfather once operated.

The young second-row – drafted in due to Huddersfield’s injury crisis – performed admirably in the shock 20-16 win and is expected to retain his place for tomorrow’s visit of Widnes Vikings.

With uncle Karl being an uncompromising forward for Bradford and Great Britain and grandfather Jack an equally tenacious member of the first Leeds team to win a Championship in 1961, it should be no surprise he is flourishing.

Fairbank’s father Mark also played with Keighley while uncles John (Leeds/Oldham) and Dick (Halifax) are other members of the illustrious dynasty.

But he told the Yorkshire Post: “They never really pushed me into playing when I was growing up.

“I was about eight years old when I decided I wanted to.

“When I got to 16 I got fed up with things and had a year out but then came back and it’s great to be playing now with Giants.

“None of my family put pressure on me but if I go to ask them they’ll give me tips.

“Karl’s done that – but he’ll sometimes rope me in to helping on the farm when I’m up there!”

With Jack and Karl still working on the family farm high above Elland, the Halifax-based forward has long known the merits of hard graft and it is perhaps his willingness to toil, plus no little skill, which has put him to the forefront of Nathan Brown’s thoughts at Huddersfield.

Still only 21, Fairbank delivered an impressive 67-minute stint at Wigan – only his second Super League appearance after debuting against Hull KR last July – and did not look out of place.

“It was the highlight of my career so far,” admitted Fairbank, who has clearly benefited from 19 games at Halifax while on dual-registration last season.

“I’d never played in a game as hard or as tough but it was a pleasure to be involved and a great result. I’d been nervous for three or four days building up to it, once Nathan had told me I was playing, and feeling that atmosphere just before kick-off felt surreal.

“But it was a great way to start the season and Nathan was pretty rapped with us all. We’ve got to carry it on against Widnes.”

Fairbank will know a little more about tomorrow’s opponents given he faced them in Championship action last season.

“That experience at Halifax really helped me,” he said.

“I enjoyed working under Matt Calland and there was a great set of lads there.

“To get some first-team football under my belt, and play in a Northern Rail Cup final too, really aided my progression.

“We actually lost at Widnes who were a big, physical side, but they’ve obviously made a lot more signings for Super League.”

Established second-row Dale Ferguson returns to bolster Huddersfield tomorrow, as does captain Kevin Brown, but Fairbank is hoping to get another chance to show his credentials.

He fully knows the Giants coach is unafraid to give youngsters a chance at the Galpharm.

“It doesn’t matter how much money you are on, who you are or what you’ve done, as long as you train hard and play hard he will pick you,” said Fairbank.

“I know it’s tough here with the number of back-rows we’ve got but I just want to keep my head down and keep working. If I play again this weekend then it’s my shirt to lose and it’s all up to me.”

It is Brown’s final season at Huddersfield and Fairbank believes the club is well-placed to push on and deliver some silverware.

“The team spirit is good, probably tighter than ever,” he said.

“We’ve as good a chance as anyone if we put the effort in like we did at Wigan.”

Newly-promoted Widnes – who lost against Wakefield Trinity last week – have their own injury problems with captain Jon Clarke (hamstring) joining his vice-captain Shaun Briscoe on the sidelines.

Stefan Marsh also aggravated a groin problem in training so former Huddersfield second-row Simon Finnigan could make a return at his old stomping ground.

As for that endless family dynasty, though, it appears there could be another Fairbank making waves soon.

“One of my cousins Miles is with Halifax Under-23s,” he said.

“He’s still a bit raw but is Karl’s son, a six-foot-four prop and when he gets to 22 or 23 he could be one to watch out for.”

dave.craven@ypn.co.uk