Vastly-experienced Eorl Crabtree believes the Huddersfield Giants’ involvement in the Middle 8s could prove a blessing in disguise.

An awful 2016 regular season has resulted in Huddersfield finishing bottom of the Super League XXI table with just six weeks from their 23 top-flight fixtures.

They now face the prospect of being relegated from Super League if they don’t finish in the top three at the end of the seven-game Middle 8s mini League or lose the ‘Million Pound Game’ between the teams in fourth and fifth.

It’s a far cry from the last few years when the Giants have been battling out for a place in the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford. On a couple of occasions they’ve come within one game of doing so.

Huddersfield Giants 16 Leeds Rhinos 20 - Joe Wardle and Danny Brough watch as Leeds Rhinos celebrate a late try to win the match and become League Leaders First Utility Super League XX Huddersfield Giants v Leeds Rhinos 25/09/15 (Pic by John Rushworth)

But while former England prop Crabtree admits he’s finding it tough coming to terms with the fact his club won’t be involved in this year’s scrap to reach the ‘Theatre of Dreams’, he can still see some positives from being part of what’s officially described as the ‘Super 8s: The Qualifiers’ competition alongside Leeds, Salford, Hull KR, Leigh, London, Batley and Featherstone.

“To be honest, this was the last thing we wanted to be involved in. Like everyone else in Super League, we wanted to get into the eight and be in with a shout of reaching the Grand Final at Old Trafford,” said Crabtree.

“But having had a bit of time to reflect on things, I’m not so sure this is the end of the world for us. In fact, I genuinely believe our involvement in the Middle 8s could prove a blessing in disguise.

“No disrespect to what’s gone on in previous regimes here – because we’ve had some fantastic coaches who have been brilliant for us – but I think if we’d have scraped into the Super 8s in sixth, seventh or eighth it would have papered over some massive cracks in the organisation. Things would have carried on the way they were, and that wouldn’t have helped in the long term.

“Instead, we failed pretty spectacularly in not making the eight, which has enabled Rick Stone to come in as head coach and look at everything with a fresh pair of eyes.

“He’s obviously an exceptionally experienced coach, having been in charge of Newcastle Knights in the Australian NRL and with Fiji in the World Cup, so he certainly knows what he’s doing.

Huddersfield Giants u19 v London Broncos at Lockwood Park, Huddersfield - Giants Coach Rick Stone with Brian Blacker and Chris Thorman.

“He’s been able to take a step back and see exactly what we do right and what we do wrong, and he’s already taking steps to address the problems he’s seen. He’s already making progress.

“Whether it’s individually or collectively, he’s seen ways in which things can be improved, and that’s given everyone a new lease of life.

“And I think it’s fair to say everyone’s buying into the Rick Stone way.

“How quickly this will reap its rewards, we’re not too sure at this stage. There are quite a few things he’s looking to fix up and change.

Rick Stone knows Huddersfield Giants have the quality to beat Salford Red Devils

“But hopefully we’ll see some of the results at Salford tomorrow and keep building from there.”

Crabtree also believes Stone’s excellent man-management skills are paying off.

Eorl Crabtree of Huddersfield Giants is tackled by Jordan Thompson and Danny Washbrook of Hull FC First Utility Super League XXI Huddersfield Giants v Hull FC 30/06/16 (Pic by Dave Howarth)

“I think he’s given everyone a new lease of life,” added Crabtree.

“We all really appreciate how open and honest he is, and everyone has been responding positively to that.

“He’s spent a fair bit of time with me, saying exactly what he wants from me and asking me what I want from him. I love that approach, and so do the rest of the boys.

“But, as I say, the acid test comes over the next few weeks and how we fair in the Middle 8s.

“We’re certainly all looking forward to the challenges that lay ahead.”