Decisions required by Brown as Wolves pay visit

It is a conundrum which has almost as many people talking as the puzzle surrounding how exactly they would pick their Exiles XIII.

It is a problem – if that is the right word – Nathan Brown must contemplate and face every week.

It is a dilemma most Super League coaches would simply crave.

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It is this – who would consist Huddersfield Giants’ finest first-choice 17.

Given we are now entering the ninth week of this Engage Super League season, it should not be a question at all.

Surely by now, any head coach worth his salt must know which players he can trust the most to best fulfil all his on-field aims and hopes?

The bedding-in period for new signings has long since elapsed and we are now well into this campaign which is proving refreshingly absorbing and unusual in equal measure.

However, ahead of this evening’s visit from Warrington Wolves – the side they share top spot with alongside those roguish Castleford Tigers – Huddersfield coach Brown has already utilised a staggering 27 players and not because of any mounting injury crisis.

It is the Australian’s own doing that he has penned in so many different names in his team sheet, never once so far maintaining an unchanged side from one week to the next.

It is testimony to the quality of all those 27 players and the envious depth of his squad that Brown has seen his flourishing side lose just twice all year.

He can tinker away and know the cogs will not come to a standstill; the machine will keep running efficiently regardless of how it is composed.

There is even an unconfirmed rumour doing the rounds that ahead of the game at Hull KR a fortnight ago Brown actually asked his front-row contingent to decide between themselves which one of them would sit it out.

Darrell Griffin apparently stood up – or should that be down? – to take his rest knowing full well he would be restored in Sunday’s match against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.

But now leaders Warrington arrive, resplendent as the prolific-scoring team that many observers feel are apparently destined to earn a first Super League title in 2011.

Brown must pick his strongest 17 for the sizeable challenge if they are to repeat their opening day win over Tony Smith’s side.

He is a clever operator; perhaps he has always known it.

Warrington’s shock loss against Catalan last week has been their only reverse since that Cardiff encounter, when they finished the game with only 11 men due to a catastrophic run of injuries.

One thing for certain, as all the Huddersfield hopefuls wait to see if they get the nod, is that, barring injury, illness or a major traffic problem weaving his way to the Galpharm Stadium, Luke O’Donnell will play tonight.

There was a reason Brown rested the former New South Wales Origin forward against Wakefield – the first time he has not started at loose forward this season – and it was to keep him ready for this gargantuan encounter.

While others may be unsure about their involvement, the brawny Australian is just the sort of character Huddersfield will need to dampen Warrington’s flair and adventure.

Having joined from North Queensland Cowboys over the winter, Brown envisaged the robust international being the sort of signing who could turn his promising side into actual trophy winners.

There is nothing to suggest in his early encompassing performances for the West Yorkshire club that he will not fulfil his side of the bargain.

Refreshed after his week off, the 30-year-old admits the rotation policy is something which will hold his new club in good stead.

“I actually think of it as being more of a positive than a negative,” he said.

“It’s still only early in the season and looking at it from a positive point of view we’ve been lucky enough to use a few young guys to see how they fare in the competition.

“Now we know if we do need to call on those guys during the year we can.

“For me, it was good to get a break. It was perhaps just as good mentally as it was physically and I’m pretty keen for this now.”

Debutant O’Donnell was at the heart of Huddersfield’s impressive solidity when they beat Wolves 28-18 in February but both sides have improved since that rusty encounter.

“Defence is the one thing that stood out that day,” he recalled.

“I remember defending our line for consecutive sets of six and it was a pretty good team effort all-round.

“Warrington threw a fair bit at us in attack and it was one of those that could have gone either way but we managed to hold them out.

“That’ll do us again come Friday. It is a massive game as they have been the benchmark team and we’re going to have to match them in their forwards.”

He is expected to return along with captain Kevin Brown, England prop Eorl Crabtree and experienced ex-international Lee Gilmour, winger David Hodgson perhaps one of the unlucky ones to miss out.

The game sees the first return to the Galpharm of Brett Hodgson, the talismanic ex-Giants captain who left for Warrington just as his former Origin team-mate O’Donnell was arriving.

They may get to link up again soon in representative action though after both were named in the initial 34-man Exiles squad to take on England in June,

“I could easily say the only thing I miss from the NRL is playing Origin,” said O’Donnell.

“This is going to be something to look forward to and all the best players are definitely going to be wanting to be part of it.

“There’s that many top quality players though – more than half could play Origin – it’s probably hard to pick the team.”

Just as his Huddersfield coach knows all too well.