FOR Brett Ferres, the situation former club Huddersfield Giants find themselves in still leaves him a little incredulous.
The England second-row, who left John Smith’s Stadium for Leeds Rhinos in January, returns there tomorrow knowing he could help send them ever closer to the ignominy of the Million Pound Game and relegation.
Just 12 months ago, Huddersfield hosted their West Yorkshire derby rivals at the same venue on the final night of Super 8s action, with both still able to lift the League Leaders’ Shield.
Now, after disastrous campaigns, each have ended up in the Qualifiers but, whereas Leeds have rallied and won five from five to secure their 2017 Super League place, the Fartowners’ abysmal form has continued.
Last week’s 48-40 loss at Leigh Centurions saw their Championship opponents promoted – and meant one team will definitely now be relegated.
Huddersfield desperately need victory tomorrow to challenge for third place as otherwise, even if they win at Hull KR in their final fixture in a week’s time, it might not be enough to stave off finishing fourth or even fifth and facing that sudden-death endgame.
“I would never have guessed this to be fair,” replied Ferres, when asked if he ever contemplated Giants being in such a state when he left eight months ago.
“When you look at the squad there, they certainly have players who you’d think would be able to see them in a far better position.
“But, obviously, it’s just not clicked there this season for various reasons. I’ve spoken to a lot of the boys there about what’s going on and they can’t put their finger on what’s gone wrong.
“They know what they have to work on but just can’t seem to get things right. We were in the same position at Leeds and addressed some things which, luckily, helped turn us around. But Huddersfield are still missing something.”
The decision to sack Paul Anderson in June has not reaped the dividends hoped for with Giants failing to enjoy the traditional surge in form normally associated with a new man coming in.
It took Australian Rick Stone four games to secure his first win and he has yet to defeat a Super League side, all of his victories coming against Championship opponents in the Qualifiers.
Ferres helped Giants to the 2013 League Leaders’ Shield but now the threat of demotion for a first time since 2001 is very real.
“It’s a tough one,” added the 30-year-old, who joined the club from Castleford Tigers in 2012.
“Certainly it’s a position no one wants to be in in a couple of weeks’ time – the Million Pound Game. Jobs are on the line and there’s a very real chance you’ll be out of work if it all goes wrong.
“It’s a difficult position for families and Huddersfield will be desperate to do all they can to avoid that. They have grown as a club since they last went down. When I was there we had some good days but now they seem to have got it wrong for some reason.”
One of the main reasons behind Leeds’s upturn has been the arrival of Papua New Guinea hooker James Segeyaro who has been inspirational since joining from Penrith Panthers in June.
Rhinos have won all eight games since his debut and Ferres admitted: “He’s been good has ‘Chicko’. We’ve struggled with hooker this year and it is always a very important position; that’s who has most touches of the ball and makes the most tackles.
“He’s been really valuable for us and it’s great that he’s signed for another two years as he makes a massive difference.”
But first come Giants and Ferres said: “It’s difficult to judge what Huddersfield will be like.
“They could be very nervous but if I was in their camp I’d want to go out and start well more than anything, give the team a chance of the performance needed. It’s all about us, though; we want to keep this 100 per cent record.”
Leeds round off by hosting Leigh – who have also won all five games so far – at Headingley on Thursday in a game which should decide who finishes top.