IN the midst of their worrying injury crisis and winless start to Super League, there are always still positives for Huddersfield Giants.
For one, their wretched luck with players being sidelined means some more of their younger generation are getting greater opportunities to express their skill.
It may be sooner than expected for some, or they may be being exposed to more top-flight football than head coach Paul Anderson would ordinarily prefer.
However, with eight first-team players absent for tomorrow’s visit of Widnes Vikings, these are not ordinary circumstances.
Kruise Leeming is one of those who looks set for an extended run in the side.
Still aged just 20, the diminutive hooker is a comparative veteran compared to some of Huddersfield’s current rookies, given he made 15 appearances last term, admittedly all but three from the bench.
“We’ve just got to take every opportunity we can as younger players,” he said, with part-timer Sam Wood set to make only his second senior appearance tomorrow and fellow 18-year-old, the winger Darnell McIntosh, hopeful of a debut along with 19-year-old loose forward Mikey Wood.
“No matter what the reason for me being in the team – injuries or something else – I’m going to enjoy it and take my chances because you don’t get many, do you?”
He will get more than expected this season, however, given the unfortunate news broken barely a fortnight ago that Huddersfield’s former England hooker Luke Robinson has had to retire due to a serious hip injury. As a fellow product of Halifax amateur club Siddal, and with a similar stature and game-style, too, Leeming has plenty in common with the 31-year-old.
“People keep asking me whether it’s a good thing that Luke’s retired in terms of me getting more games this year, and it is in some ways,” he said, with former Melbourne Storm star Ryan Hinchcliffe the No 1 hooker at John Smith’s Stadium this term.
“But I learned loads off him as a player and he taught me a lot.
“There might be more chances but it was great to have Luke playing.
“He’s still here in the group though and I’ve learned a lot from Hinchy, too.”
There is Kyle Wood to come back from injury, too, the former Wakefield Trinity hooker/half-back so Leeming will look to impress while he can.
He was part of the youthful Huddersfield side that earned great credit – if not the result – on their last outing, the agonising late 18-13 loss to Wigan Warriors 10 days ago.
Wood made an impressive debut that night while inexperienced forwards like Josh Johnson and Nathan Mason really stood up alongside the livewire Leeming.
“The young lads have been playing well” Leeming said.
He added: “We’re pushing really hard and I think that’s a good thing because it makes us all work even harder for a spot in the team, even the older more experienced guys.
“If we don’t take our chances there’ll be no competition, and competition is a great thing to have at the club.
“It keeps everyone on their toes and that’s really good.”
Anderson has plenty of faith in Leeming – surely the only Super League player to be born in Swaziland – if his decision to hand him a new two-year deal last June is anything to go by.
The Giants academy product made his first-team debut against Warrington almost three years ago and scored with his first touch but admits the experience of playing for the West Yorkshire club is always varied.
“I think it’s different every year,” added Leeming.
“I played a bit last year but you can’t really replicate that; every game seems to be different each week and you can’t go in knowing what to expect.
“Last year I played league games and play-off games, and the intensity is so different, so you’ve got to be prepared each and every week.”
Huddersfield lost their opening game against St Helens before falling to Wigan and are missing captain Danny Brough, experienced props Craig Huby and Eorl Crabtree plus Joe Wardle among others.
Widnes, meanwhile, have beaten Leeds so far but lost to Salford last week.