Huddersfield Giants v Hull FC: Crabtree keen to cash in while he still can

Huddersfield Giants' Eorl Crabtree charges past Castleford Tigers' Oliver Holmes
Huddersfield Giants' Eorl Crabtree charges past Castleford Tigers' Oliver Holmes
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EORL CRABTREE admits time is running out for him to win a major trophy with Huddersfield Giants and even accepts a lifetime at the club might end with yet more frustration.

The ex-England prop starts his 15th campaign with them tomorrow and, by the time his contract expires at the end of it, will be 33.

Crabtree, of course, lifted the 2013 League Leaders’ Shield, the first time the Fartowners had finished top in 81 years.

However, despite their consistent top-five finishes in recent times, they have still failed to reach Old Trafford and lost both Challenge Cup finals – 2006 and 2009 – in which they appeared.

For Crabtree, who should break 400 games for his hometown club this season and is expected to sign a new deal, it is difficult to comprehend.

“You are right and it is not like it’s an unfair question,” he said, when asked if time is running out for this Giants team – with talismanic captain Danny Brough also now 32 – to prosper.

“For me, personally, getting to the back end of my career I haven’t got many years left to win a trophy although the younger lads coming through have.

“We are in a better position than we were 10 years ago. The signs are very, very positive. Whether we win something before I retire I don’t know.

“But we will in the future and I do want to be a part of that.”

Their latest quest starts tomorrow when Hull FC arrive for the opener at John Smith’s Stadium.

For anyone growing tired of Huddersfield’s failure to convert potential into glory, the big-spending East Yorkshire club are worse. They finished an abject 11th last term having been vanquished 76-18 at Huddersfield in the previous year’s play-offs.

Hull coach Lee Radford has invested in more high-profile signings this time around with ex-Great Britain stand-off Leon Pryce and Marc Sneyd, one of Castleford Tigers’ big stars last term, but doubt still remains.

“What I expect from them is the unexpected,” said Crabtree.

“That’s what we expect from Hull nowadays as they keep getting these great signings and then disappointing everyone, including myself.

“I always want Hull to do really well but unfortunately in the past they haven’t. Hopefully, this season they will improve and I don’t see why they shouldn’t do.

“Playing against them I expect them to come and give us a good go. With the new structure as it is, we know every team will probably be better prepared than they have in the past.”

And what of the “New Era” which sees a reduced 12-club Super League further altered so that all but the top eight are left in danger of suffering relegation?

Crabtree, who went down with Huddersfield in 2003 and helped get them straight back up, said: “I think everyone is nervous.

“Fans are nervous, coaching staff and players as we don’t know what to expect from the new structure.

“That goes for coaches especially as if they don’t get a good start they’ll be behind early doors and they just can’t afford to do that. Everyone I have spoken to has been absolutely flogged in pre-season as they’re all scared about not starting well.”

The instantly-recognisable Crabtree, who towers at six foot six inches, has some quality support in the Huddersfield front-row this term after coach Paul Anderson – who knows a thing or two about life as a prop – secured the prize signature of influential Castleford star Craig Huby.

“It’s nice to have some help in the middle and ‘Chubs’ offers that,” said Crabtree, about the 28-year-old who is one of Super League’s leading front-rows.

“He’s very skilful, is a great bloke and has fitted in really well. Mind you, we have about 10 Cas players here now…! But I can’t talk highly enough about (half-back signed from Castleford) Jamie Ellis either.

“He’s the one that has perhaps shocked me a bit and is a lot better than what I gave him credit for. I don’t mean to be disrespectful there but I knew what to expect from Chubbs – I know he’ll be really good for us.

“But Jamie Ellis I think will be fantastic for us, too.”

The hope is their arrival and that of back-rows Jack Hughes (Wigan) and Oli Roberts (Bradford) will act as missing pieces of the jigsaw for Huddersfield, who finished just two points behind leaders St Helens last year but then lost both play-off games.

“We haven’t had the strength in depth or quality of player to actually take it to the next level before in the play-offs,” he said.

“The ones we’ve signed now are quality and should give us that extra edge. I think in the past those signings haven’t quite performed at the level we expected or required.”