FOR someone who won NRL Grand Finals with Melbourne Storm, it is easy to understand why Ryan Hinchcliffe might wonder just how he has become in embroiled in another scrap at the wrong end of Super League with Huddersfield Giants.
The Australian loose forward joined the West Yorkshire club at the end of 2015 when they had finished in the top-four yet again and come within 80 minutes of Old Trafford.
However, they surprisingly finished bottom last term and endured an arduous fight against relegation.
Things have not improved much this time either with the Fartowners three points adrift of the top eight but also only the same margin clear of 12th.
They are in Newcastle tomorrow for their Magic Weekend fixture with Catalans Dragons and you can imagine Fog on the Tyne resonating clearly with Hinchcliffe in these opaque times.
“It’s been hard, I’m not going to lie,” the 32-year-old told The Yorkshire Post.
I still have faith that we have a good side. When we have our best team on the paddock we can compete with every team in the competition.Huddersfield Giants’ Ryan Hinchcliffe
“It’s been a real eye-opener for myself. Last year was pretty tough personally for me for many reasons.
“I suppose this year I’ve taken a little bit of a step back and tried to enjoy it a whole more but it is hard when you’re losing.
“You’re trying hard and you can’t seem to find a way out. It’s a different experience for me and I’ve learned a bit about myself throughout this period.
“But I still have faith that we have a good side. When we have our best team on the paddock we can compete with every team in the competition.
“We’ve been knocked back with injuries like most sides but we’re starting to get a few guys back on board and the experience a couple of young guys have picked up will help, so we can start to be more consistent.”
They have won just one of their last 11 outings and suffered an embarrassing Challenge Cup exit to part-timers Swinton Lions.
However, that solitary victory was at high-flying Leeds Rhinos recently and, after that, they pushed leaders Castleford Tigers close, too, so there is belief things are improving.
Furthermore, for all they are without talisman Danny Brough who starts a two-game ban tomorrow, Rick Stone’s side do see fellow half-back Lee Gaskell return from injury.
They also give a debut to on-loan stand-off Martin Ridyard from Leigh Centurions while captain Leroy Cudjoe, the England centre, is fit again, too.
That said, Catalans, who have lost their last four matches including a 62-0 Challenge Cup exit at Hull FC last week, are buoyed by the return of one of Hinchcliffe’s old NRL adversaries Greg Bird as well as Tony Gigot, Krisnan Inu, Paul Aiton and Ben Garcia.
But Hinchcliffe, who also won the 2013 World Club Challenge with Melbourne against Leeds, maintained the pain of last year’s dice with relegation is driving them on.
“Last year was not enjoyable,” he said.
“It was a tough situation for everyone involved in the club – not fun at all – and I’m sure the other three teams were the same.
“We have to make sure we take the motivation from having played last season to find a way to win these tight games and get out of that bottom four.
“I’m still confident we can do that. I think in the last eight weeks we’ve been in most games but just haven’t been able to find a way to win them.
“There’s been some poor defence that has cost us at times but we’ve scored enough points to win them ordinarily.
“We need to fix up those defensive lapses and if we do that a couple of those tight ones go our way, we can put some wins together and all of a sudden we’re back up where we want to be.
“We played well enough to beat Castleford even if we didn’t get two points and we did well at Leeds but we really need to get cracking very soon.”
Hinchcliffe played most of last year at hooker and admitted: “It’s definitely helped being back in the back-row this season.
“I’m a lot more comfortable there and more value to the team so that in itself made me feel I’m contributing a bit more. Now we go again against Catalans.”
Meanwhile, Huddersfield have switched their Super League fixture with St Helens to avoid a clash with Huddersfield Town’s Sky Bet Championship play-off final against Reading at Wembley.
The game was due to be played at the John Smith’s Stadium a week on Monday but will be rescheduled for Friday, June 16, which was a blank weekend for both clubs following their exit from the Challenge Cup.
The switch means the two clubs will no longer have to play two games in four days but Giants managing director Richard Thewlis says the move was prompted by the success of their co-tenants.
“Since Huddersfield Town’s magnificent victory we have been inundated with calls from supporters wanting to share the Wembley experience as well as a huge number of stadium staff here which made the actual staging of our game extremely problematical,” he said.
“It’s fully expected that 40,000 Huddersfield sports fans will descend on London that day to hopefully see a Town win and with both ourselves and the Saints having a free weekend later in the year the move made a lot of sense to us both.”