WHEN it comes to fixing their hair, Huddersfield Giants forwards are not shy in the slightest.
Towering England prop Eorl Crabtree is famed for his long, blond tresses, usually tied back in readiness to be able to see which opposition defender he is going to scatter next.
Second-row Dale Ferguson, meanwhile, opts for the shorn look but with a slender sliver of a ponytail stretching down his back. For now, anyway.
“I’ve had it for three years but the boys have had a couple of tries cutting it off,” he said, with a wry smile.
“When I was at Wakefield, Steve Snitch cut it completely off.
“I’ve grown it back but I know Lee Gilmour’s gunning for me now so I’m just ducking and diving out of his way.”
It is not only Ferguson’s hair his mischievous colleague is gunning for. He knows the former Great Britain international is after his place in the Huddersfield side for tomorrow’s Carnegie Challenge Cup quarter-final as well but, then again, who isn’t?
New Zealand World Cup winner David Fa’alogo is back from injury and Huddersfield coach Nathan Brown has so much forward talent on his hands he could shuffle his forwards like a pack of cards and always end up with a winning hand – O’Donnell, Crabtree, Mason, Ferguson, Faiumu, Patrick, Chan, Lawrence, Fairbank and, now, even a converted stand-off Kevin Brown thriving at loose-forward.
It is no surprise the West Yorkshire club are joint-top of Super League and storming towards Wembley with such an abundance of class.
For Ferguson, he almost has to pinch himself. Just over a year ago, his future was in the shadows after debt-ridden Wakefield were placed in administration but the clearly talented forward was sold to Huddersfield to help pay creditors and has since blossomed under the tutelage of Brown and assistant Paul Anderson.
His form was so rich last season that he was touted to make England’s Four Nations squad.
Eventually, the Pontefract-born player, pictured, was selected for the second-string England Knights but his progress was slowed when he missed the start of this campaign following shoulder surgery and has only recently returned from a frustrating six-week lay-off with a knee problem.
He won man-of-the-match in the fifth-round victory over Swinton Lions, though, and was one of just two players to earn Brown’s praise in last week’s narrow defeat at Catalan.
Ferguson, 24, scored his first try of the season and impressed after becoming the latest back-row to do an auxiliary shift at prop yet he knows he cannot rest on his laurels.
“One hiccough here or an injury and you know you’re going to be sat on the sideline for quite a while,” he admitted.
“I certainly don’t regret signing and it seems like I’ve been at Huddersfield years. The place is world class.
“I just busted myself through training really to try get back into the squad and get recognised again.
“Nathan believes in me and just told me to get back to the fitness I had last year.
“Hopefully, I can keep my spot but we’ve got Lee Gilmour back this week after his wife gave birth to their son.
“He’s been training at back-row and prop like me. We’re here, there and everywhere at the minute but as long as I’m in the side I don’t mind where I play.
“I got 75 minutes against Swinton and another 55 in a tough battle at the weekend so, hopefully, I’ll get a shot against London.”
If Huddersfield do progress into the last four, he will be hoping to avoid the disappointment of 2008 when, as a promising 20-year-old, he featured all the way with Wakefield until being axed for the semi-final when they exited against Hull FC.
“There were a couple of boys who missed that one,” recalled Ferguson.
“I believe it was me and Jamie Rooney. We’d played in most of the games up to it but our form dipped going into the semi-final and John Kear just chose the strongest squad he thought at the time.
“It was a big cut but I’m hoping I can keep going now.
“I’ve never been down to the new Wembley and don’t want to until I play there. That’s my intention with Huddersfield this year.”
Their visitors are already being written off by many, given their woeful start to the Super League season.
But Ferguson insisted: “They ran us pretty close (30-16) at their place and have a big tough pack who get in your face and like to knock you about a bit.
“They have some young athletic backs who can easily shred you on the outside, too, so we’ve got to be switched on.”