A WINNING habit is something Huddersfield Giants have worked hard to achieve and coach Simon Woolford says they won’t give up without a fight.
Round three of the Super-8s began with Huddersfield, who play host to Wakefield Trinity tonight, in fifth place just four points outside the play-offs.
They are on a six-game winning run and have lost only two of their last 14 matches in all competitions over the last four months.
That has been a remarkable turnaround from the early weeks of the season when it seemed inevitable Giants would finish in the bottom-four and face a battle against relegation.
Five losses from their opening seven games, including a 22-4 reverse at Wakefield in March, cost previous coach Rick Stone his job and, at that stage, there were real fears Huddersfield could be playing Championship rugby next term.
The remarkable revival under Woolford saw them secure a top-eight place – and therefore Super League survival – with a game in hand and as teams around them fell away they ended the regular season just one place outside the play-off zone.
Their fate is not in their own hands, but Woolford is delighted to be in the mix for a semi-final appearance with five matches still to play and believes his side’s true character has shone through over the last few weeks.
“We are in a position where we need some teams above us to lose some games,” observed the 43-year-old Australian, who has emerged as a possible contender for Super League’s coach of the year honour.
“While there is life there is hope for us and I’ve been really impressed with the way our guys have continued on since the (Super League) season ended.”
Giants could have put their cue on the rack after the penultimate round of the league campaign when their shock win at Castleford Tigers banished the prospect of competing in the Qualifiers.
Winning has become a habit for us at the moment, nobody gets sick of winning and we want to continue it on. When the season finished we made a commitment to continue onHuddersfield Giants’ head coach Simon Woolford.
Instead, they hammered Wakefield 40-28 the following week, won at league leaders St Helens in the opening round of the Super-8s and backed that up with a home success against Hull.
Woolford said: “They have kept a really good attitude towards their footy in the Super-8s.
“We set a goal before the Saints game to win the first three to give us a bit of a chance and this (tonight’s) game is one of those.
“Winning has become a habit for us at the moment, nobody gets sick of winning and we want to continue it on.
“When the season finished we made a commitment to continue on and give ourselves every chance of getting into the top-four.
“That was a commitment we made to each other and we’ll stick to that as long as we still find ourselves with some hope.”
As the form team in the competition and having beaten three of the current top-four in their last five matches, Huddersfield will be regarded as genuine contenders for a Grand Final appearance if they do sneak into the semi-finals.
“We are not thinking that far ahead,” insisted their coach.
“We are thinking of winning every game we play from here until the end of the season and that still may not be good enough.
“We are just worried about playing well and continuing what we’ve been able to do.”
Giants have beaten Wakefield three times since that early-season defeat at Belle Vue and Woolford accepts there is little the sides don’t know about each other.
Assessing tonight’s visitors, the Giants coach noted Trinity’s attacking threat.
“They are a big team and they come out and start their games with a lot of aggression,” Woolford warned.
“We need to match that. They are a pretty well-balanced team and they are difficult to defend against, but defence has been a real feature of our game over the last three months.
“We need to make sure we defend well again.
“There have been some times over the last three months when we’ve not played our best footy when we’ve got the football, but our defence, generally speaking, has held up pretty well.
“In the game against Hull KR we lost our way a little bit, but apart from that it has been pretty good.”
Having a near fully-fit squad has aided Giants’ cause and Woolford confirmed only long-term casualty Sebastine Ikahihifo and fellow front-rower Matty English are unavailable for tonight’s encounter
“As far as the squad’s concerned, we are looking pretty good,” he said.
“We’ve been without Seb for a while now. Matty has a wrist injury, it’s not as bad as we first thought, but he will be a couple of weeks and then we’ll see how it goes.”