HE has been one of the first names on Huddersfield Giants’ team sheet for almost a decade but Danny Brough admits he now faces a real battle for a place even in their matchday 17.
The veteran scrum-half, who won Man of Steel when Huddersfield lifted the League Leaders’ Shield in 2013, celebrated his 35th birthday yesterday.
Although he was a regular last term, he is now in the final year of his contract at John Smith’s Stadium and realises head coach Rick Stone might soon start planning for the future.
Huddersfield signed Australian Jordan Rankin from Wests Tigers in June last year and, though he filled in at full-back during Jake Mamo’s injury absence, the ex-Hull FC star is seen mainly as a half-back for the forthcoming campaign.
Furthermore, the West Yorkshire club also has Lee Gaskell, the former Bradford Bulls and St Helens stand-off, on their books so Brough knows he must perform consistently to keep his younger rivals at bay.
“There is a bit of competition for places now at Giants,” he told The Yorkshire Post.
“Obviously, there’s Lee Gaskell, Jordan Rankin and myself and one of us is probably going to miss out.
“I’m not too sure which way Rick might go or whether one of us might get pushed up to hooker or left out completely.
“It’s vital you perform to keep your place and I most definitely know that applies to me as much as anyone.
“You do want competition, though, as, if there isn’t any, you can start getting complacent thinking you are going to play every week come what may.
“Hopefully I’m in the 17 as many times as I can.
“Back in the day I did play a bit of hooker and I’m happy to play anywhere; when you’re knocking on at my age you want to play as much as possible and wherever.
“But I do know I’m not guaranteed a place at all.”
Gaskell, 27, and Rankin, 26, will certainly be putting the pressure on to secure playmaking roles.
“They’re both quite young half-backs still and they just have to keep learning the game, keep things stable and do what they do,” added Brough.
“Their finding their feet and showing up well. It’s good we have these options now.”
Scotland captain Brough – controversially sent home from the World Cup in November after being deemed too drunk to board a flight in New Zealand – joined Huddersfield from Wakefield Trinity in 2010.
Renowned as one of the best kickers of his generation, the Dewsbury-born player has consistently been one of Super League’s top creative talents.
A charismatic and gifted playmaker, Brough has enjoyed a colourful career and undoubtedly proved one of the club’s finest-ever signings.
Huddersfield have done it tough in recent years, though, finishing bottom in 2016 and then only narrowly avoiding the Qualifiers again last term when finishing eighth.
They won just two of their opening 11 league games but – with new players like Rankin and fellow Australian Mamo now bedded in – Brough hopes they can enjoy a stronger start to the new season which starts at his former club Hull FC on February 1.
“We probably can’t start any worse than we did last year,” he said.
“It’s a big focus of ours to start as well as possible.
“You have to get as many points as you can early on as, when you start as we did last term, it’s hard to catch up with the rest and week in, week out it becomes a struggle.
“We had a good run mid-season last year that just got us into the top-eight but we want more consistency in 2018.”
With Gaskell unavailable, Brough and Rankin formed the half-back partnership as Huddersfield beat another of his former clubs Dewsbury Rams 32-22 in Sunday’s friendly.
That game was the testimonial for Giants captain Leroy Cudjoe, their long-serving England centre who is currently sidelined by a serious knee injury.
Brough said: “He’s a great bloke is Leroy.
“To those that don’t know him, he just goes about his business doing everything he possibly can for the team.
“He’s Huddersfield through and through and it was a great day for him while, personally, I was really proud to be able to be involved in it.”
Although Brough did not want to comment on that Scotland episode, he did say he was unsure whether or not he had played his last game for his country.
He became the Bravehearts’ most-capped player when he led them against Tonga in the World Cup, taking his tally to 25 with the following appearance versus New Zealand before that infamous incident in Christchurch.
“No one knows what’s going on,” he said, with head coach Steve McCormack stepping down last month after 14 years in charge.
“There’s no coach in place so who knows? It depends, I suppose.”
For now, Brough will concentrate on Huddersfield – and keeping hold of that hard-earned spot.