HUDDERSFIELD GIANTS’ Michael Lawrence approaches his 250th career game believing the good times are about to return for his hometown club.
The hard-working back-row reaches the latest milestone in tomorrow night’s Super 8s contest at Castleford Tigers.
Huddersfield have narrowly missed out on the top-four this time around but Lawrence - who won the 2013 League Leaders’ Shield with Giants - believes they can advance further next term under Simon Woolford.
The Australian has revitalised the club since being appointed in April and brought confidence that they can start to challenge at the top end once more.
Giants, once top-four regulars, slumped into the Qualifiers in 2016 and narrowly missed the bottom-four again last term.
Asked if he thinks they can get back to those 2013 heights under Woolford, Lawrence said: “Yeah, definitely. Since he’s come in I’ve felt really excited.
“It’s the first time in a couple of years that I’ve felt really excited about what we’re building at the club from the coaching team at the top to the playing group we have.
“I’m very excited about finishing this year and then pre-season and what we can achieve next year.
“I do think we’ll just go from strength to strength and get even better.”
Lawrence, 28, has spent his entire career with the Fartowners.
Recollecting his first game, he said: “It was pretty quick.
“I came off the bench for about two minutes against Warrington in 2007, I think I touched the ball once and then the final hooter went.
“I thought ‘Super League is pretty easy if this is all you have to do!’
“But, yes, I’ve played a lot of games in between then and now and have a lot of fond memories as well.”
He has been awarded a testimonial for next term and revealed Bradford Bulls could be Huddersfield’s opponents for the benefit match.
“We’re trying to get Bradford Bulls sorted out,” said Lawrence.
“It’s nearby, hopefully they'll get promoted and hopefully bring a good crowd.
“If we can manage to sort that it’d be good as with being a pre-season friendly you don’t want to be travelling too far at that time of year.
“Fingers crossed we can get something sorted with them.
“That'd be my first choice really and it’s looking like it could be maybe our first friendly on the 13th of January.
“Hopefully that’ll get confirmed in next month or so and it depends on how they go on and where they finish.
“But I’m really excited for next year and the testimonial. I've got my committee together now ands they’re starting to plan events and we should be able to nail some stuff down soon.
“I'm looking forward to it and the support has been really good.”
First come Castleford, though, who sit third and are bidding to make back-to-back Grand Final appearances.
“They’ll be pushing and trying to crank it up now, getting ready for their semi-final in about a month’s time,” said Lawrence, who helped Huddersfield win 32-18 on their last visit to Castleford in July, part of a brilliant sequence of 11 victories from a dozen games.
“Obviously we lost last week at Warrington and the top-four was a game too far for us so we’re focused on this performance now and playing well.
“We feel like over the last four or five months with our performances we’ve earned a lot of credibility and respect in the league.
“We don’t want to undo that in our last few performances. We want to put good ones in and finish off well.”
Lawrence could be facing Joe Wardle, part of that famous 2013 side that helped Huddersfield finish top for the first time in 81 years, who is now with Castleford after a year in the NRL with Newcastle Knights.
“It’d be good to see Joe again,” he said.
“Obviously he’s a great player and plays the game tough so it will be a tough battle.
“He’s already been talking to Jake, his brother, this morning and it will be the first time they get to face each other.
“I know Jake’s looking forward to that and getting one up on him as well.”