AS DIFFICULT as times have been of late, Huddersfield Giants head coach Simon Woolford knows it is “important” his side finish off the Super League season on a positive note this weekend.
They head to Catalans Dragons on Saturday having lost their last four games.
Granted, losing five on the trot will not be the end of the world. Far from it given where they were earlier in the year holding up the rest of the competition.
However, there is certainly a realisation it would be a poor way to round off their 2018 campaign and taint slightly the progress they have undoubtedly made since Woolford took over in May.
The Australian’s task then was to try and avoid them being dragged into the relegation mire, one he successfully achieved by steering them into the Super 8s with a brilliant run of form that, at one point, read 10 wins from 11 games.
Clearly, then, Woolford does not have any of the trauma that Leeds Rhinos, Salford Red Devils and Hull KR are all currently still enduring: with just one Qualifiers fixture each still remaining none are still yet certain of safety.
However, on the back of a loss to Wakefield Trinity, once Giants’ hopes of a top-four spot were ended with a 26-24 defeats at Warrington Wolves on September 7, further losses against Castleford and Wigan followed.
Woolford admitted: “The last few weeks have been challenging.
“Hopefully, we’ll have a couple of players back for the last game.
“It’s been a good four or five months. The last three weeks have been challenging but the plan is to go and play well at Catalans and finish off the season with a win. That would be nice.
It’s been a good four or five months. The last three weeks have been challenging but the plan is to go and play well at Catalans and finish off the season with a win. That would be nice.Dave Craven
“Hopefully, Jermaine (McGillvary) will be back, Leroy (Cudjoe) we’re hopeful on as well as (Dale) Ferguson and (Aaron) Murphy.
“Young Louis Senior got through the Academy game unscathed from his ankle injury so he will be available for selection, too.
“We’ll be able to field a pretty competitive team and it is important that we finish the season off well.”
If Huddersfield can get just two or three of those senior players back they will certainly be strengthened compared to the squad that put up a valiant effort in a narrow 13-6 loss to Wigan.
Catalans, though, came out of their own rut on Saturday night when they won at Hull FC to secure a first victory in seven Super League matches.
That Challenge Cup final success has had a draining effect on the Les Dracs but – having been welcomed by Barcelona FC on Sunday and with a Nou Camp game against Wigan Warriors lined up in 2019 – they, too, will be looking for a last hurrah.
Woolford added: “They have big powerful forwards who like to run hard, like to offload the footy and are very aggressive defensively.
“Obviously, Josh Drinkwater has a fantastic kicking game, Tony Gigot at the back is always dangerous and Greg Bird’s another one so they have threats all around the field.
“Certainly it’s a game where we need to be sound defensively that’s for sure.”
Elsewhere, Castleford could give a debut to 17-year-old second-row Lewis Peachey, who hails from Barnsley, when they head to St Helens tomorrow night.
With Greg Eden, Mile McMeeken and Junior Moors all rested, he comes into Daryl Powell’s 19-man squad along with Joe Wardle, Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e and Jamie Ellis.
Likewise, promising Wakefield youngster Lewis Wray hopes to make his bow against Warrington, Ashton Golding replaces Leeds Rhinos full-back Jack Walker (head) against Toronto and Hull have called upJack Downs and Cameron Scott.