MAKING a competitive return to action holds no fear for fit-again Stanley Gene.
The Giants' Papua New Guinean star plays his first game in five months tonight when he lines up against Super League rivals Castleford Tigers in the McAlpine pre-season clash (8.00).
The 29-year-old suffered a fractured cheekbone against the Tigers in a vital play-off battle at The Jungle in August - Castleford triumphed 26-18 - and immediately underwent an operation to repair the damage.
That proved a complete success, with Gene having received the all-clear to resume full-contact training over a month ago.
And even though he has painful memories of his last meeting with the Tigers, that hasn't dampened Gene's enthusiasm ahead of tonight's key pre-season test.
"I'm feeling fit and can't wait to get back on to the field," said an excited Gene.
"These past five months have really dragged and this match can't come soon enough.
"I suppose at the back of my mind there will always be that initial doubt going into the first tackle to see how the injury has healed up.
"But I don't really have any major fears on that front.
"In fact, right now I'm feeling stronger and fitter than I have done in absolutely ages.
"While I've been waiting to get over the cheekbone injury, I also underwent minor surgery to sort out a slight knee problem.
"That, too, feels great and I'm hoping to reap the rewards as quickly as possible, although I expect a lack of match practise could initially hold me back.
"But I've got tonight and the game at Leeds next Sunday to get me back up to speed before the start of Super League, and that should be enough."
Gene has been handed the No6 shirt for the Giants' first major run-out ahead of their opening Super League game, also against Castleford at the McAlpine, on Sunday, February 22.
He partners scrum half Paul March at half-back, although that could change as the contest progresses.
During the course of the game, new Giants recruit Sean Penkywicz could move from hooker to No7, or Gene himself could find himself on the move.
That obviously depends on head coach Jon Sharp who has made it clear he intends to try out various combinations during the 80 minutes of action.
"Just because Stanley will start at stand-off doesn't mean that's the position he'll play when the season starts.
"Stan, like a lot of players in my squad, has the ability to play in a number positions.
"That's the type of player I want because it gives me so many more options. A coach can't ask for more than that."
Huddersfield Giants: Reilly; O'Hare, Donlan, Bailey, St Hilaire; Gene, March; Fleary, Penkywicz, Roarty, Nero, Jones, Costin. Subs: White, Slicker, Gannon, Smith, Morrison, Whittaker, Crabtree, Cooper.
Castleford Tigers: Saxton; Pryce, Maloney, Newlove, Rogers; Hepworth, Sheridan; Greenhill, Godwin, Sykes, Harland, Ryan, Hudson. Subs: Rudder, Gibson, Smith, Lunt, Huby, Thackray, Jackson.
Referee: Robert Connolly (Wigan).