ONE of Huddersfield Giants biggest ‘fans’ is desperate to inflict as much misery as possible on his former club and take Castleford Tigers into the semi-final of the Carnegie Challenge Cup.
Popular prop Paul Jackson’s fondest moments in the game have all come during his time in the claret and gold.
Having come through the Giants’ Academy system – along with fellow Tiger Ryan Hudson – Jackson made his Huddersfield debut as a substitute in a Challenge Cup defeat at Halifax in February 1998 before going on to far greater things with the club in rugby league’s most famous knock-out competition.
In 2006, Jackson was in the starting line-up in the Challenge Cup final at Twickenham as the Giants were beaten by St Helens and was then a substitute when they lost to Warrington in the Wembley final three years later.
Apart from Jackson, fellow front-rower and great friend Eorl Crabtree was the only other player to have featured in both matches for Huddersfield.
But on Sunday, they will line up on opposite sides in the biggest clash between the two clubs since the Challenge Cup quarter-final of 2009 when a late Danny Kirmond try sealed a thrilling 16-14 Galpharm triumph.
And Jackson has admitted that looking forward to facing Huddersfield in the Cup has brought back some amazing memories.
“Looking back on my career, the two Challenge Cup finals are the clear highlights,” reflected Jackson, who will be in a Castleford side that includes fellow 2006 Giants finalists Stuart Jones and Steve Snitch.
“Unfortunately, they both ended in defeat, but they’re still occasions that will live with me forever. Being part of a Challenge Cup final is an incredible experience.
“There aren’t that many of us in the Cas side who’ve been lucky enough to play in a final, most of us who have did it with the Giants!
“But there is a great hunger and desire within the squad to get there this time around by getting the better of Huddersfield in the process.
“Many of the boys were part of that Cas team who were beaten by the Giants in 2009 when Danny scored that late try. It was a defeat that hit them hard, because they were probably the better side for much of the tie and ended up with nothing.
“I know that’s one of the extra sources of motivation this weekend.
“But the main thing is that we know we’re capable of getting to Wembley. We’ve got the ability, and we’re determined to go out there on Sunday and give it our very best shot.
“The prize for winning is massive. The right result means you’re only 80 minutes away from Wembley, and that’s a very special thought.”
But Jackson knows his side is going to have to step up to guarantee success against the club that he holds so dear to his heart.
Although the Tigers have won their last two Super League games – at home to Bradford and away at Crusaders – they have struggled to match their form of the start of the season when they were the early Super League XVI pacesetters.
And the prop has made it clear they have read little into the Giants’ shock 36-0 defeat at struggling Bradford Bulls on Sunday.
“I think it’s fair to say we were all very surprised by that score,” added Jackson, who has also had a Super League spell at Wakefield.
“As a result, we could see two pretty desperate teams out there on Sunday. We both know how important it is to find some form again.
“But we haven’t spoken too much about what the Giants are doing, we’ve got our own game to fix up.
“Although we managed to scrape a win at Crusaders, we were all pretty dirty on the way we played and we know we’ve got to improve massively if we want to win on Sunday.
“That’s what we’ve been focusing on this weekend, and I’m sure we will be a lot better when we get back on the field, particularly as the game is so significant.”