NOT for the first time this year, Brett Ferres is making his comeback with Huddersfield Giants –but now it is at just the right time.
The influential England second-row has missed the last nine weeks due to biceps surgery but returns for tonight’s crucial final Super 8s game against Leeds Rhinos which could see either side –or neither, bizarrely – crowned as League Leaders’ Shield winners.
For Ferres, it is something he is getting used to. So far in 2015, the Giants vice-captain has been sidelined by an ankle injury, strained knee ligaments and a two-game ban before this latest setback.
Stop-start does not do it justice. He said: “It seems to be the story of my season so far – coming back and making comebacks. This is about the fourth this year.
“It’s good timing, though, for such a massive game. My initial prognosis was I’d be out for the year and I’d be done and dusted.
“But I’m very fortunate in that I seem to heal very quickly and that’s been true again.
“I’ve trained hard, worked hard and can’t praise our physio, Oliver Waite, enough for getting me back in time like this.”
Huddersfield, who are just a point behind Leeds and will lift the League Leaders’ Shield if they win and Wigan Warriors lose against Castleford Tigers tonight, are the country’s form team as they hunt a sixth straight victory.
Indeed, for all Ferres’s undoubted talents, it would have been understandable if coach Paul Anderson had not brought him straight back for such a pivotal game.
Yet he has done with young centre Jake Connor omitted and Joe Wardle – such a revelation filling in at second-row – reverting to the three-quarters.
Ferres, 29, admitted: “It’s difficult isn’t it? It is a really tough call for Baloo (Anderson) and I do really feel for Jake Connor.
“He’s been fantastic for us as has Joe in the back-row.
“I’ve been there myself earlier in my career when a more senior player comes in and the younger one gets the short end of the stick.
“But that’s what Baloo gets paid the big bucks for. Hopefully, I can cement my place in the side now and really kick on for this season.”
Ferres was part of the Huddersfield team that came top in 2013, the first time the West Yorkshire club had done so in 81 years.
Of course, as has so often been the case, they then imploded when it came to the play-offs, their wretched record standing at just three victories in 14 such games in the summer era.
Under the new format, however, they only have to win just one match to reach a maiden Grand Final and, if they prosper tonight, that also crucially secures a top-two finish and home advantage for the next week’s semi-final.
Former Bradford Bulls, Castleford Tigers and Wakefield Trinity forward Ferres insists they are now better prepared than ever to achieve their ultimate goal.
“What we’ve done over the last couple of years at Giants is start to win those big games that we were probably never expected to win,” he said.
“We’ve turned big teams over and on their own patch as well which makes it easier for us now; we know what we’re capable of.
“As for finishing top, we can only do what we can do. If we win, we put ourselves in position to get first or second. It’s going to be a massive match and it’s a derby as well with so much riding on it for both sides.
“I saw a couple of the Cas’ lads earlier in the week, too, and gave them a nudge saying they owe us a favour. We did one for them last year beating Saints to help them get into the top four.
“But we know – whatever anyone else does – three wins and we’re going to be very happy.
“People have said the play-offs system has been really difficult in the past and teams have come from fifth and out of nowhere to win it.
“But we’ve a pretty much fully-fit squad now to select from and it’s three one-off games which is the exciting thing for us. If we win them all, we’ll each have a Grand Final winners ring on our finger in three weeks’ time.”
Vibrant Huddersfield have not lost since falling 30-22 at Wigan on August 6 and, encouragingly, are undefeated in their last five home meetings with Leeds.
Admittedly, they have drawn two of those but the Rhinos’ last win at the John Smith’s Stadium was a 34-28 play-off success in September, 2011.
Leeds, who will definitely claim the League Leaders’ Shield with a win, were clinging on to top spot heading into this final round, having lost three successive games – their worst run of the season – since winning the Challenge Cup final against Castleford.
However, Ferres insisted: “That makes them more dangerous now. They’ve been out in front for most of the year only to start falling away at the back end.
“But they’ve come up against some tough challenges recently like a Castleford side last week who could go out and enjoy themselves with no pressure on.
“Leeds are full of class players, though, and we know how tough this match will be.”