NATHAN BROWN knows it’s going to be even harder for the Giants to reach the Challenge Cup final this year than it was last.
Huddersfield open their 2010 Cup campaign tomorrow with the home clash against fellow Super League side Hull KR desperate to make an immediate return to Wembley.
Brown’s men have made no secret of their desire to erase the memory of last season’s 25-16 final defeat at the hands of Warrington Wolves by getting back to the capital and lifting the Challenge Cup for the first time since 1953.
But Galpharm chief Brown knows that with the ever-improving standard in Super League, the route to Wembley is going to be far more challenging.
“We’ve definitely got a far better squad now than we had last year, simply in terms of its depth and the quality of personnel we’ve recruited,” said Brown.
“But to win something this year is going to be even harder, because almost every club in the competition has already shown they have improved. The simple fact is that if you haven’t improved on last year you’ll get left behind.
“Yes, it’s been tough for the likes of Leeds and Castleford, but that’s been down to injuries and once they get their players back it’s going to be a different matter.
“It’s obviously been a different story for clubs like Warrington and Wigan, who struggled last year but are one and two in the table at the moment, while Hull look a lot better and Bradford look a lot better.
“And then there are the Crusaders, who finished bottom last season with three wins and have already won four this time around.
“All this shows how much stronger the competition is, and that’s going to make it harder to be successful in both Super League and the Challenge Cup. But that, of course, is our challenge.
“We obviously want to be as successful as we possibly can, and we’d like to think we have the squad that will help us guarantee that successful this season.”
With powerful pack stars Keith Mason and David Fa’alogo returning in recent weeks, Brown knows has a strong squad to pick from for tomorrow’s tie, with only Stephen Wild, Simon Finnigan and Brad Drew unavailable for selection.
“We’ve got the potential to name our strongest side this year,” said Brown.
“Keith Mason has been back a few weeks now and David Fa’alogo played last week.
“So pretty much everyone is fit and healthy apart from Wildy (Stephen Wild), Drewy (Brad Drew) and Finny (Simon Finnigan) who have been out most of the year.
“So we are certainly strong in terms of selection, it’s just important we name the right players now to take the field.”
The key change to the side that beat Castleford 24-0 in Super League last Friday is the expected return of hooker Shaun Lunt, who was the Giants’ man-of-the-match in last season’s Challenge Cup final, after recovering from a wrist injury.
Giants: B Hodgson, Cudjoe, Lolesi, Whatuira, D Hodgson, Brown, Robinson, Crabtree, Lunt, Mason, Gilmour, Fa’alogo, Raleigh, Griffin, Lawrence, Faiumu, Grix, Aspinwall, Brough.
Hull KR: Briscoe, Fox, Welham, Webster, Dobson, Lovegrove, Murrell, Wheeldon, Newton, Galea, Cook, Netherton, Fisher, I'Anson, Vella, Watts, Taylor, Cockayne, Clinton.
Referee: Richard Silverwood.
Video referee: Steve Ganson.