WHEN I arrived at the club in 2004, our average crowd was around 3,500.
For a club that was now finally establishing itself in Super League, that was obviously a disappointing figure.
At the time, I could only dream of the day when we would attract gates of 15,000, with all four sides of the stadium having to be opened to accommodate the demand.
Now that dream has become a reality.
In the build-up to our opening game against Leeds, we were aware that our record attendance of 12,417 set in 1998 could easily be broken.
In fact, on the eve of the contest, there was talk we may even break 17,000!
In the end, we didn’t quite make that, but to attract 15,629 was absolutely magnificent, especially when well over 11,000 fans were backing the Giants.
That sensational figure was a culmination of the success we are now achieving both on and off the field.
Clearly, reaching the Challenge Cup final in 2006 played a major role in helping improve the way in which our club was portrayed and the awareness of it.
And then we backed that up last season by reaching the Super League play-offs for the first time.
At the same time, this has been supported by an excellent effort from our marketing team, who did such a magnificent job to promote the game.
They all deserve tremendous credit for their efforts.
It’s obviously just a massive shame we were unable to produce the performance against Leeds to match their efforts.
Despite now having so many vastly-experienced players in our squad, the side were unable to rise to the occasion.
When it came to the crunch, we were second best, which was extremely disappointing, especially given our excellent pre-season.
But even though I made it clear I was unhappy with our performance, think it’s only right to praise the way the opposition played.
Leeds arrived at the Galpharm as reigning Super League champions, and showed why.
They looked ruthless and looked like they had played together as a team all year, not a couple of games.
They were effective, efficient, did the simple things right and took their chances exceptionally well.
That’s the way to succeed in Super League, and that’s what we’re all striving to achieve.
IT was fantastic to see Leroy Cudjoe handle his debut so well.
It must have been a very daunting prospect for him having to play his first game in Super League for his hometown club against the reigning champions and in front of a record 15,000 crowd.
There’s no question such an occasion could have got the better of a player, but not Leroy.
I didn’t see his selection as any sort of gamble, because if I didn’t think he was ready there’s no way I would have contemplated picking him.
Everyone has been impressed with the kid from the first day of pre-season training and he was picked to play against the Rhinos on merit.
We could see how much his hard work in training was paying off with the way he performed in the Infirmary Cup game at Halifax at the end of last year.
He then backed that all up with a solid display at Hull and an equally accomplished performance at Castleford Tigers before really cutting lose in the big win at Batley Bulldogs.
It was the way he played that day that really convinced me he was ready for the big time.
I didn’t actually tell Leroy he would be featuring against Leeds until the end of the following week’s training, and he was under strict instructions to tell absolutely no-one about it, even his mum and nana!
I knew if word got out it would probably spread like wild fire, Leeds would find out and the pressure would mount on him.
It was important his build-up to that game was as low-key as possible.
We didn’t want to put any undue pressure on him. That would have been totally the wrong way to go.
And I think the results speak for themselves.
I don’t think he could have done much better in his first run-out at this level.
He defended well and made some very strong carries, and in the time he was on the field he clearly underlined what a bright future he could have in the game.
Leroy, take a bow!