REVENGE is a word that is freely bandied about in sporting circles.
Every week there is some fixture that will supposedly give some team or other the chance to right a perceived wrong – but the ‘R’ word is one that should be removed from the Giants’ vocabulary at least until August 28.
It was no surprise when the draw for the fifth round of this year’s Challenge Cup pitted Huddersfield at home to Warrington Wolves that the ‘R’ word instantly surfaced – not least on the back page of this very publication.
But I would like to argue that when May 8 rolls round, the one thing the Giants must not be dwelling on is avenging their Wembley final defeat of 2009 at the hands of former coach Tony Smith’s charges.
Having stood in what the Rugby Football League these days refers to as ‘the mixed zone’ – which is modern media speak for the press interview area – at Wembley last summer, the disappointment among the Giants staff and players was understandably tangible.
But what also came across most strongly from the players – and particularly from a truly crestfallen Jamahl Lolesi – was the sense of shock that they had failed to do themselves justice on the big stage.
While beating the Wolves at the next hurdle is a must, gaining that success must be motivated by the bigger picture which is the Giants ensuring they are involved when the final is played at Wembley at the end of August.
Once they have made sure of a trip to North London then the Giants can think of the ‘R’ word and inflict revenge on themselves by producing firstly the big-game performance they know they have in the locker and, secondly, hopefully finding a match-winning formula and this time bring the cup home!
THERE can be no room for sentiment in top level sport and the plight of Monty Panesar is a prime example.
The spinner, newly signed to Sussex for the 2010 campaign, has been omitted from the 27-strong England Elite Performance squad named this week.
While it is a shame that Monty is no longer regarded as an England essential, it does at least show that progress is being made.
Panesar won the hearts of a nation, but the manner in which he achieved that probably says as much about the English psyche that occasionally manifests itself on the sporting field than it did about the player’s own abilities.
We forgave him his batting weaknesses, and glossed over the idiosyncrasies of his very individual fielding style, as a trade-in for the sight of those wonderful wicket celebrations that arrived fairly frequently as he sent down those clever balls that hurried players who had gone on to the front foot and had duly suffered.
However, Monty was perhaps blessed that his star came into the ascendancy at a time when top notch England spinners were about as rare as an in-bound flight into British airspace has been this last week or so.
By all accounts Panesar has made a strong start to the season and is looking good, but he will now have to produce a run of form that is consistently in the top drawer if he is to add to his current total of 39 Test appearances.
Ahead of him are Graeme Swann, James Tredwell, his own county skipper Michael Yardy and Yorkshire’s young gun Adil Rashid – it is going to be a big test of his abilities if he is going to make the frame again.
But while it is painful for the entertaining Panesar, surely the good news is that having this kind of competition is very healthy for the England cricket team in Ashes year.
THE profile of snooker has become a talking point as falling attendances, declining television audiences and the telling loss of tobacco company sponsorship have led to a whole heap of soul-searching prior to the current World Championship in Sheffield.
But in the midst of all this self-flagellation among the cue wielding fraternity a bright light shines – despite the fact that Steve Davis perhaps puts the gulf between the game’s heyday and its current plight into the sharpest focus.
Even more telling is the fact that the Crucible has been celebrating the 25th anniversary of the most dramatic match the green baize has ever witnessed as Dennis Taylor overcame Davis in a black ball finish in the final frame.
At the time Davis was regarded as the earnest artisan who turned up and mechanically decimated the rest of the field.
He was so boring that satirical TV show Spitting Image gave him the nickname of ‘Interesting’, and Davis used it with such wonderful self-deprecating warmth that he has now become a pithy and witty pundit who is genuinely more interesting than pretty much anyone else in snooker these days.
Given that once upon a time seeing Davis on the screen might have had you reaching for the channel change button, nowadays his is the one face you want to see.
In fact the only player I have been moved to make a definite date to watch at Sheffield in 2010 is Davis.
Just to make it even better his 30th attempt to lift the world crown started with the 52-year-old notching a thrilling 10-9 first-round win over Mark King.
I am praying that Davis can keep the tournament ‘interesting’ as long as possible – is his appearance in the final too much to ask for?