GIVEN their moniker, you would think Huddersfield Giants would be all too familiar with the prospect of being slayed.
However, as last season’s surprise League League Shield winners, vice-captain Brett Ferres admits they are struggling to cope with the mantle of being a ‘big scalp’ for voracious opponents.
It is partly the reason behind Huddersfield’s indifferent start to the new campaign, in which they have prospered just twice in six games, something they desperately hope to redress when Warrington Wolves arrive at John Smith’s Stadium tomorrow.
Of course, considering the West Yorkshire side have a famously wretched recent record against these opponents, losing the last nine encounters, it is hard to imagine their travails easing any time soon.
Rugby league, though, has a knack of making a mockery of such statistics so who knows?
“There’d be no better time than this to end that run,” Ferres told The Yorkshire Post, “and there’s no reason why we can’t.
“We know we have been scratchy so far this season.
“We’ve been a little bit off and not playing well for 80 minutes.
“We have put in a couple of big performances against Wigan and Leeds and came out of those quite well with a win and a draw.
“But against the teams we’ve been expected to beat we have maybe taken them lightly.
“We probably haven’t dealt with the expectation on us now; teams are thinking we’re a bit of a scalp whereas before that wasn’t the case.
“They raise the bar now and see Huddersfield as a major side to knock off.
“We have to react to that but I’m sure we’ll get better.”
In fairness, it is probably a good time for Paul Anderson’s side to take on Warrington.
Admittedly, the pain is still raw from last season’s encounters – Huddersfield were dumped out of the Challenge Cup last eight and Super League play-off semi-finals by Tony Smith’s side – but the Cheshire club are undoubtedly now in transition.
Having lost a second successive Grand Final, they saw the integral Lee Briers, Adrian Morley and Brett Hodgson, among others, all move on and their replacements are still finding their feet. Stuttering Warrington have mustered wins from only half of their fixtures so far and, so, remain vulnerable.
Ferres, the Dream Team second-row who made such an impact for England in the World Cup, said: “It was always going to be tough for them given the calibre of those players leaving.
“They’ve recruited quite well and got some younger kids in while Richie Myler and Stefan Ratchford have had another year as seasoned pros but everyone was expecting a quick fix and it is taking time.
“There’s some really good signs there, though, and they played well in parts against Wigan last week so we know to be wary.”
Huddersfield, meanwhile, hardly got going in Perpignan, trailing 20-0 after just 45 minutes against a Catalan Dragons side that had lost all five games previously.
There was a late flurry of visiting tries in the 30-14 defeat – Ferres getting his third of the campaign -–but it was all futile.
They lost centre Joe Wardle to an ankle injury, too, so he misses tomorrow but there is a welcome return for Shaun Lunt, the former Leeds Rhinos hooker who – though not as decorated as Man of Steel Danny Brough – acts so often as the heartbeat of this Huddersfield side.
Ferres, who turns 28 next month, admitted: “We have missed him. We’ve missed both Lunty and Larne (Patrick) as they both give us different things.
“It’ll be good to hopefully have Lunty back. We know what we have to do and Baloo (Anderson) is fine. He just wants us to knuckle down, keep working hard and he knows things will start turning.
“Maybe we do just need a bit of luck but we also know we have to be more dominant.
“We’ve a tough couple of games coming up (Warrington and then at Hull FC on Thursday) and, after the travelling back from Catalan, we all just wanted to get back out there as soon as possible to start proving the doubters wrong and correcting our mistakes.”
Michael Lawrence returns from suspension.